Compression of interferometric radio-astronomical data
Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON), PO Box 2, 7990 AA Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
Received: 22 August 2016
Accepted: 7 September 2016
Context. The volume of radio-astronomical data is a considerable burden in the processing and storing of radio observations that have high time and frequency resolutions and large bandwidths. For future telescopes such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the data volume will be even larger.
Aims. Lossy compression of interferometric radio-astronomical data is considered to reduce the volume of visibility data and to speed up processing.
Methods. A new compression technique named “Dysco” is introduced that consists of two steps: a normalization step, in which grouped visibilities are normalized to have a similar distribution; and a quantization and encoding step, which rounds values to a given quantization scheme using a dithering scheme. Several non-linear quantization schemes are tested and combined with different methods for normalizing the data. Four data sets with observations from the LOFAR and MWA telescopes are processed with different processing strategies and different combinations of normalization and quantization. The effects of compression are measured in image plane.
Results. The noise added by the lossy compression technique acts similarly to normal system noise. The accuracy of Dysco is depending on the signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) of the data: noisy data can be compressed with a smaller loss of image quality. Data with typical correlator time and frequency resolutions can be compressed by a factor of 6.4 for LOFAR and 5.3 for MWA observations with less than 1% added system noise. An implementation of the compression technique is released that provides a Casacore storage manager and allows transparent encoding and decoding. Encoding and decoding is faster than the read/write speed of typical disks.
Conclusions. The technique can be used for LOFAR and MWA to reduce the archival space requirements for storing observed data. Data from SKA-low will likely be compressible by the same amount as LOFAR. The same technique can be used to compress data from other telescopes, but a different bit-rate might be required.
Key words: techniques: interferometric / methods: observational / methods: data analysis / radio continuum: general
© ESO, 2016