First demonstration of ECHO: An external calibrator for hydrogen observatories

Daniel Jacobs, Jacob Burba, Judd Bowman, Abraham R. Neben, Benjamin Stinnett, Lauren Turner, Kali Johnson, Michael Busch, Jay Allison, Marc Leatham, Victoria Serrano Rodriguez, Mason Denney, David Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Multiple instruments are pursuing constraints on dark energy, observing reionization and opening a window on the dark ages through the detection and characterization of the 21 cm hydrogen line for redshifts ranging from ~1 to 25. These instruments, including CHIME in the sub-meter and HERA in the meter bands, are wide-field arrays with multiple-degree beams, typically operating in transit mode. Accurate knowledge of their primary beams is critical for separation of bright foregrounds from the desired cosmological signals, but difficult to achieve through astronomical observations alone. Previous beam calibration work at low frequencies has focused on model verification and does not address the need of 21 cm experiments for routine beam mapping, to the horizon, of the as-built array. We describe the design and methodology of a drone-mounted calibrator, the External Calibrator for Hydrogen Observatories (ECHO), that aims to address this need. We report on a first set of trials to calibrate lowfrequency dipoles at 137 MHz and compare ECHO measurements to an established beam-mapping system based on transmissions from the Orbcomm satellite constellation. We create beam maps of two dipoles at a 9° resolution and find sample noise ranging from 1% at the zenith to 100% in the far sidelobes. Assuming this sample noise represents the error in the measurement, the higher end of this range is not yet consistent with the desired requirement but is an improvement on Orbcomm. The overall performance of ECHO suggests that the desired precision and angular coverage is achievable in practice with modest improvements. We identify the main sources of systematic error and uncertainty in our measurements and describe the steps needed to overcome them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number035002
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number973
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Dark ages, reionization, first stars
  • Instrumentation: interferometers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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