EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 498, Number 2, May I 2009
Page(s) 591 - 599
Section Astronomical instrumentation
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200811210
Published online 11 March 2009
A&A 498, 591-599 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200811210

Full Stokes polarimetric observations with a single-dish radio telescope

E. Cenacchi1, A. Kraus1, A. Orfei2, and K.-H. Mack2

1  Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
    e-mail: cenacchi@mpifr.de
2  Istituto di Radioastronomia, INAF, via P. Gobetti 101, 40129 Bologna, Italy

Received 22 October 2008 / Accepted 22 January 2009

Context. The study of the linear and circular polarization in AGN allows one to gain detailed information about the properties of the magnetic fields in these objects. However, the observation of circular polarization (CP) with single-dish radio telescopes, in particular, is usually difficult because of the expected weak signal. Measurements of CP are normally derived as (small) differences between two large numbers (left hand circular, LHC, and right hand circular, RHC), and an accurate calibration is absolutely necessary.
Aims. We attempt to improve the calibration accuracy by including the Stokes parameter V in the common single-dish polarimetric measurements, thus allowing a full Stokes study of the source under examination.
Methods. By completing a detailed study, up to 2nd order, of the Müller matrix elements in terms of cross-talk components, we are able to reach the accuracy necessary to study circular polarization.
Results. The new calibration method was applied to data taken at the 100-m Effelsberg radio telescope during regular test observations of extragalactic sources at 2.8, 3.6, 6, and 11 cm. The D-terms in phase and amplitude appear stable with time and the few known values of circular polarization were reproduced.
Conclusions. Whenever a classical receiver and a multiplying polarimeter are available, we demonstrate that the proposed calibration scheme allows one to include Stokes V in standard single-dish polarimetric observations as the difference between two native circular outputs.

Key words: polarization -- radio continuum: galaxies -- techniques: polarimetric -- methods: observational

© ESO 2009