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Revisiting the radio interferometer measurement equation. I. A full-sky Jones formalism

ABSTRACT

Since its formulation by Hamaker et al., the radio interferometer measurement equation (RIME) has provided a rigorous mathematical basis for the development of novel calibration methods and techniques, including various approaches to the problem of direction-dependent effects (DDEs). This series of papers aims to place recent developments in the treatment of DDEs into one RIME-based mathematical framework, and to demonstrate the ease with which the various effects can be described and understood. It also aims to show the benefits of a RIME-based approach to calibration. Paper I re-derives the RIME from first principles, extends the formalism to the full-sky case, and incorporates DDEs. Paper II then uses the formalism to describe self-calibration, both with a full RIME, and with the approximate equations of older software packages, and shows how this is affected by DDEs. It also gives an overview of real-life DDEs and proposed methods of dealing with them. Applying this to WSRT data (Paper III) results in a noise-limited image of the field around 3C 147 with a very high dynamic range (1.6 million), and none of the off-axis artifacts that plague regular selfcal. The resulting differential gain solutions contain significant information on DDEs, and can be used for iterative improvements of sky models. Perhaps most importantly, sources as faint as 2 mJy have been shown to yield meaningful differential gain solutions, and thus can be used as potential calibration beacons in other DDE-related schemes.