Radio astronomical image formation using constrained least squares and Krylov subspaces

Ahmad Mouri Sardarabadi, Amir Leshem, Alle Jan Van Der Veen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Aims. Image formation for radio astronomy can be defined as estimating the spatial intensity distribution of celestial sources throughout the sky, given an array of antennas. One of the challenges with image formation is that the problem becomes ill-posed as the number of pixels becomes large. The introduction of constraints that incorporate a priori knowledge is crucial. Methods. In this paper we show that in addition to non-negativity, the magnitude of each pixel in an image is also bounded from above. Indeed, the classical "dirty image" is an upper bound, but a much tighter upper bound can be formed from the data using array processing techniques. This formulates image formation as a least squares optimization problem with inequality constraints. We propose to solve this constrained least squares problem using active set techniques, and the steps needed to implement it are described. It is shown that the least squares part of the problem can be efficiently implemented with Krylov-subspace-based techniques. We also propose a method for correcting for the possible mismatch between source positions and the pixel grid. This correction improves both the detection of sources and their estimated intensities. The performance of these algorithms is evaluated using simulations. Results. Based on parametric modeling of the astronomical data, a new imaging algorithm based on convex optimization, active sets, and Krylov-subspace-based solvers is presented. The relation between the proposed algorithm and sequential source removing techniques is explained, and it gives a better mathematical framework for analyzing existing algorithms. We show that by using the structure of the algorithm, an efficient implementation that allows massive parallelism and storage reduction is feasible. Simulations are used to compare the new algorithm to classical CLEAN. Results illustrate that for a discrete point model, the proposed algorithm is capable of detecting the correct number of sources and producing highly accurate intensity estimates.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberA95
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© ESO, 2016.


  • Instrumentation: interferometers
  • Methods: numerical
  • Techniques: image processing


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