AIPS HELP file for MX in 31DEC24
As of Thu Dec 7 0:58:22 2023
MX: Used to map and CLEAN. IMAGR is a better task to use!
Explain file retained since some users may find it
of some help.
********** IMAGR is recommended over MX now **********
MX does not apply flag tables or calibration even if FG and/or
SN tables accompany the input file. It is also limited in a
large number of ways compared to IMAGR even if one does not use
thae advanced options of IMAGR. Robust weighting and TV
interaction alone are reasons to abandon MX.
Furthermore, DO3DIM = FALSE imaging has been redefined in a more
correct fashion which prohibits the use of this task.
Therefore, it has been deleted from the system. The EXPLAIN
file may still be of utility to some users, so it has been
MX: Task which makes and CLEANs a map from UV data on disk
DOCUMENTERS: W. Cotton NRAO (mostly from UVMAP and APCLN)
G. Langston NRAO
RELATED PROGRAMS: UVLOD,UVSRT,APCLN,UVMAP,BLOAT,HORUS,RSTOR
MX combines the functions of mapping, CLEANing and
subtracting components from the un-gridded uv data (ie. the
functions of UVMAP, APCLN and UVSUB). Because the CLEAN
components are subtracted from the un-gridded data, the entire
region of a map can be CLEANed; as opposed to the method used
in APCLN which can only CLEAN a quarter of the map area. Data
in an arbitrary sort order may be deconvolved.
MX permits up to 64 independent fields in the antenna beam
and 46655 frequency channels to be mapped and CLEANed in one
execution. Multi-band data can be gridded together before
mapping. If the machine crashes before the end of the execution
MX should be fairly easily restartable.
MX is recommended over UVMAP and APCLN for the following
(1) Snap-shot observations with a small number of visibility
points run much faster with MX than UVMAP and APCLN when only
the region with the source is mapped. With MX there is no need
to confine the source to the inner quarter area of the mapped
region, although the source should not extend to the boundary of
the field of view.
(2) For observations at low frequency and at high sensitivity.
Radio emission is often detected over the entire primary beam.
It is then prohibitively expensive to make and clean one large
map. MX will permit you to choose up to 64 rectangular fields in
the sky, map each and then simultaneously clean the entire set.
It is often possible to choose a small number of fields which
contains virtually all of the radio emission so that the total
area processed by MX will be relatively small. MX is
particularly valuable for radio maps which contain a few
'confusing' sources at large angular distance from the source of
interest. In order to determine the appropriate parameters for
MX, first make a very low resolution map in order to determine
the approximate location and size of each of the rectangular
fields. Insert the appropriate parameters of the fields into MX
and run the task at the desired resolution.
(3) Only MX can produce and clean 4096X4096 maps at the present
time. Make sure you have enough disk space to make these maps!
(4) Use MX if you need >1000:1 dynamic range for a relatively
extended source. By subtracting components from the un-gridded
(u-v) data aliasing of side-lobes inside the field of view is
avoided. Finally, components very far from the phase center but
near the field center, will be subtracted from the (u-v) data
with the proper w-phase terms.
(5) MX can average frequency channels in the gridding process
by gridding each channel independently onto the same grid; this
reduces the delay smearing problem in the maps to the amount
due to the individual channel rather than the total bandwidth.
This option can also be used to smooth line maps as the number
of channels to grid together and the channel increment is
(5) Only one Stokes' Parameter map can be made with one
execution. If you must have identical coverage for your I, Q,
U or V maps, use UVMAP. However, any differences among the
different Stokes' parameters are usually minimal.
ADVERBS PECULIAR TO MX
Most of the adverbs used by MX are duplicates of those used
by UVMAP and APCLN and need no further explanation. The adverbs
peculiar to MX are:
IN2NAME, IN2CLASS, IN2SEQ, IN2DISK
MX keeps a scratch file with the current uv data with the
current list of components subtracted. This file is cataloged
and may be used to restart MX. IN2NAME etc. can be used to
specify this file. If an existent version of this file is
specified, is compatible with the current use, and has the same
number of components subtracted as the requested number for
restarting then the existing file will be used as the input uv
data for the current frequency channel. Note that IN2SEQ
especially should be specified. This will speed restarting MX
The MX uv work file will, in general, be different in many
ways from the original input data and may give difficulties to
some of the existing uv data handling routines. The data will
be in the form of a single Stokes' (or circular) polarization
with the number of frequency channels being summed into one
grid. The direction of the baseline (but not the BASELINE code)
will have been flipped as appropriate to make U positive. The
data will have been selected by the criterion given explicitly
or implicitly to MX. The weights will have the uniform
weighting correction made.
This adverb, if >0, is used to restart MX. If CHANNEL=N,
then restart MX at frequency channel N (N=1 for continuum).
When restarting a clean, use BCOMP as described below.
The number of channels to be combined on the same grid
before mapping. Use this option to obtain one map from several
channels of uv data at slightly different frequencies. Up to
2048 channels can be combined in the gridding stage.
The number of (u-v) planes to skip between maps. If
NCHAV>1, CHINC refers to the first plane going into the map.
Only one Stokes' parameter can be made at one time. A
beam is made for each polarization and each frequency channel.
These define the first and last IFs to be included in a
bandwidth synthesis average. An IF consists of a set of
one or more equally spaced frequency channels;
multiple IFs with arbitrary frequency spacings are allowed.
The minimum desired size for all of the fields. The limits
are 32x32 to 4096x4096 and must be a power of 2. The adverb
FLDSIZE define the region over which clean components are
The number of independent fields to map. Up to 64 are
permitted for each frequency channel specified by BCHAN, ECHAN
and CHINC. Each field comes out as a separate cataloged file.
Clean components subtracted from one field will not be restored
to other fields even if the images overlap.
FLDSIZE, RASHIFT, DECSHIFT
For each independent field, specify
the center of the field by its RA offset and DEC offset in
arc-seconds from the phase center. A positive RA and DEC offset
means that the field center is East and North of the phase
center. The FLDSIZE is the area in each image where clean
components will be searched for. It is limited to the range
32x32 to 4096x4096 but need not be a power of 2. The output
image size will be increase to the next power of 2 or to IMSIZE
if it is larger. For maps smaller than 256x256, the size may
be doubled for more accurate cleaning.
THE DO3DIMAG OPTION OF IMAGR IS NOT SUPPORTED BY MX.
NBOXES, CLBOX (TVBOX)
For the first field, up to 50 CLEAN windows can be
specified via CLBOX as an alternate to FLDSIZE. This allows more
flexibility than a single window centered on the phase center.
If NBOXES is greater than 0 then the contents of CLBOX is used to
specify the input window. Since these values are in pixels
care should be taken that they are determined from an image
made with the same cellsize and shift.
NOTE: the values contains in CLBOX are not used to determine
the size of the image for field 1. IMSIZE and/or FLDSIZE must
be used for this. In the case that CLBOX and NBOXES are used,
this is the only use made of FLDSIZE for field 1. Its use for
higher numbered fields is unaffected. If CLBOX is 0's then the
value of FLDSIZE (or its default) is used for CLBOX.
NBOXES and CLBOX specify the size and location of the
rectangular boxes comprising the "CLEAN Window" area A. You
make the best use of prior knowledge about the source to help
MX do its job when you restrict A as closely as possible to
the true boundaries of its emission. Recall that CLEAN attempts
to optimize F(n) as a representation of the sky, with zeroes
everywhere else. The more information you provide about where
the "real" emission is, the more likely MX is to converge on
a unique, credible solution.
The verb TVBOX may conveniently be used to set the BLC and
TRC limits of the boxes after NBOXES has been typed in.
Following a prompt on your terminal, position the TV cursor at
the BLC of the first CLBOX and press any track-ball button. Then
position the cursor at the TRC of this box and press button B.
Repeat this for all desired boxes. This will fill the CLBOX array
for the MX inputs. The terminal prompt will also give
instructions for resetting any previously set corners should
you need to do so. Note: since MX will remake the image, be
sure to run TVBOX on an image made with the same cellsize and
shift as will be used for MX.
When using MX to make several small maps over a large field
of view, use Natural weighting rather than Uniform weighting in
order to obtain the signal to noise and resolution which are
comparable to that obtained from one large map over the field of
view. For map sizes of 256 or less, the loss of signal to noise
using Uniform weighting can be a factor of two or three.
Uniform weighting in MX, HORUS and UVMAP is defined as
dividing the weights of visibilities in a UV grid cell by the
number of visibilities in that UV grid cell. (Note: this is not
defined as the dividing by the sum of the weights of the
visibilities, unless all visibilities have the same weight.)
The result of this weighting is to decrease the significance of
UV data falling in regions of the UV plane where large amounts
of UV data are present. (For the VLA, the region is near U=V=0.)
MX also allows the input UV weights data to be reset in two
ways. The first is to reset all visibility weights to One.
This is useful in the high signal-to-noise case. It also forces
all UV grid cells to have the same contribution to the image
after Uniform Weighting. (UVWTFN='O' or UVWTFN='NO')
The second weighting is "VLBI" weighting which resets the
weights to sqrt(sqrt(input weight)). This is important for
observations were one telescope has significantly higher
signal-to-noise ratio that others. If the range of the input
weights was not compressed by this weighting, the Fourier
transform of the UV data consists only of baselines with the
dominant antenna. (UVWTFN='V' or UVWTFN='NV')n
The default (BCOMP=0) restarts the CLEAN from scratch.
Other values of BCOMP are used when MX is to be restarted from
an intermediate step in the process. When set >0, it specifies
the maximum number of components from each subfield of a
previous clean to be subtracted from the uv data to obtain the
residual map for the first new iteration. Each value in BCOMP
corresponds to a field.
Restarts are sometimes needed after the computer has
crashed during a long MX. Under these circumstances, the
iteration number at the end of the last major cycle is stored in
the AIPS clean components file headers. Provided that the crash
has not destroyed relevant image files (or the CC extension
file) on disk, the CLEAN may be restarted by setting BCOMP equal
to the number of iterations shown in the image header for the
CLEAN map - if this disagrees with the number in the internal
file header (as may happen if the crash comes at an unfortunate
point in a cycle), AIPS will adjust BCOMP downwards in a
"fail-safe" way. (PRTCC might be run to check the state of the
components list in such cases). To restart MX cleaning from a
set of fields set BCOMP to the highest of the number of clean
components from the set.
When you set BCOMP>0, you must set the OUTNAME and OUTSEQ
parameters explicitly to those of the Clean Map(s) whose CC
extension file(s) contains the components which are to be
subtracted. This Clean Map file will be overwritten by the new
Clean Map, so if you wish to preserve it you should either
write it to tape using FITTP or create a second copy of it
on disk using SUBIM. NOTE: there is one CC file per output
frequency channel with version number = output channel number.
A components file F(N) can be re-convolved with a different
Clean Beam H by restarting MX with NITER=BCOMP=n. This is an
effective tool for making SMALL changes the resolution of a
Clean Map. Do NOT use it for making large (factors >2) changes
in resolution, e.g. to "find" extended components of a source.
If a structure has been resolved out over the longer baselines,
these baselines contribute only noise, not signal, to maps of
that structure, and should be excluded from any search for the
structure. CLEANing a noisy map and then convolving it to
much lower resolution makes no sense. In such cases, you should
re-map with an appropriate taper and run MX on a dirty map
with a more appropriate resolution.
BMAJ, BMIN, BPA
IF BMAJ is less than zero, the output image will be the
residual image without the clean components restored. Examining
this image for waves or other artifacts is helpful for finding
bad UV data. The task RSTOR can quickly restore the clean
MX has two different routines for computing the model
visibility from the CLEAN components. The first ('DFT ')
method does a direct Fourier transform of the CLEAN
components for each visibility point. This method probably
gives slightly better accuracy but can be slow if there are
many components and/or visibilities.
(See TIMING section for more detail).
The second model computation method is to grid the CLEAN
components, do a hybrid DFT/FFT ('GRID') onto a grid and
interpolate each visibility measurement form the grid using
(currently) ninth order Lagrange interpolation and a uv grid
with half the spacing of the mapping grid. This method is
called the gridded-FFT method and CAN be MUCH faster than
the DFT method for large data bases and large numbers of
components. Since the w correction must be done for each
field separately the length of time this routine takes is
proportional to the number of fields in which there are CLEAN
components in any major cycle. To increase the accuracy of
the interpolation, the size of the model grid used for the
interpolation is twice the size of the data grid for images
up to 2048x2048. This means the output scratch files (three
of them) may be four times the size of the largest output file.
CMETHOD allows the user to specify the method desired or
to allow MX to decide which one will be faster. CMETHOD equal
to ' ' (or any values but 'DFT 'or 'GRID') indicates that
the decision is left to MX, CMETHOD = 'GRID' causes MX to use
the gridded-FFT method and CMETHOD = 'DFT ' forces MX to use
the DFT method.
In cases where there are bright, localized regions far
from the map center (eg. strong hot spots in double lobed
sources) the gridded subtraction may be inadequate. The
principle failure should be to over estimate the brightness of
the bright regions far from the map center (should be under a
percent) and slightly increase the noise elsewhere. This
problem will be greatly reduced if the first few major cycles
use the DFT subtraction method until the brightest regions are
removed. If CMETHOD is set to ' ' the first few major
cycles will probably use the DFT.
EXAMPLES OF COMMON MX PARAMETERS
1) Emulate UVMAP and APCLN:
Set the appropriate parameters for normal UVMAP and APCLN
execution. To emulate a 1024x1024 map and with a clean of the
inner 512x512 (500X500) use the following adverbs;
FLDSIZE=500; RASHIFT=0; DECSHIFT=0
NITER=200; CMETHOD=''; UVWTFN='UN'
MX will effectively clean nearly all of a 512x512 map with 200
iterations. MX will decide (CMETHOD='') which of the two
component subtraction methods is most economical. For a data
base with less than about 1,000,000 data points, MX will run
much faster than UVMAP and APCLN on a 1024x1024 map.
Furthermore, the cleaning subtraction in MX is more accurate
than that in APCLN. The relative execution time between MX and
(UVMAP and APCLN) depend on the number of visibility points
and clean components and are given in the TIMING section.
Uniform weight was chosen to give highest resolution.
2) Piecemeal mapping and cleaning using MX
Set the usual input and output parameters, then
MX will produce the following set of maps.
a. 64x64 map centered on (-40",120") with clean components
searched in the inner 32x32 area.
b. 256x256 map centered on (5",2") with clean components
searched over the entire 256x256 area.
c. 64x64map centered on (200",400") with clean components
searched over the inner 20x20 area.
d. 256x256 beam centered on (0",0"). The beam size is taken
to be the size of the biggest map or 1024, whichever
It may be best to choose Natural weighting for the UV weight
function. In making relatively small fields over a wide area,
Natural weight emulates the resolution and signal to noise of
a single map made over the wide area. The uniform weighted
map for the 64x64 fields may be several times more noise than
the naturally weighted map.
3) MX used with a multi-frequency u-v data base.
A range of spectral channels to image can be given by BCHAN
and ECHAN which are the low and high channel numbers to be
imaged in the the input file. If CHINC is greater than 1 then
every CHINC'th channel is selected between BCHAN and ECHAN. If
NCHAV is greater than 1 then NCHAV channels will be averaged
starting with each channel selected by BCHAN, ECHAN and CHINC.
If MX needs to be restarted then CHANNEL specifies the first
channel that needs to be processed. An image and a beam are
made for each channel. There is a limit of 46655 channels in an
The default value for BCHAN is 1, for ECHAN is BCHAN, CHINC
is 1 and NCHAV is 1.
BCHAN=1; ECHAN=6; NCHAV=2; CHINC=2; STOKES='I'
Will cause channels 1&2, 3&4, 5&6 to be combined and imaged
using the Stokes' I polarization data.
If running MX on a complicated source with low GAIN you may
need to work to large final values of NITER. As MX is the major
consumer of CPU time in most map analyses, it is prudent to
preserve intermediate clean maps by writing them to a FITS tape
with FITTP. This allows you to recover from disasters such as
crashes, over CLEANing, etc. with minimal impact on total
execution time, your time, and on disk space.
The amount of time it takes for MX to run depends on the
amount of data, the size and complexity of the source and the
current load on the computer. The following formula give the
approximate times for specific operations measured on an
otherwise empty VAX11/780 plus an FPS AP-120B array processor:
Making maps, gridding correction, statistics etc.
T(real) = No. Fields * ( No. vis. * 0.4E-3 +
(SQRT(NX*NY)/1024)**1.3 * 180 seconds
Subtraction (DFT method)
T(real) = 6.0E-6 * No. vis * No. CLEAN components seconds
Subtraction (FFT method)
T(real) = No. Fields * (No. vis * 0.4E-3
+ SQRT (4*NX*NY) * 4.0E-2
+ No. Clean components * 1.0E-3 seconds
T(real) = 3.0E-6 * No. Clean components
* No. residual map points seconds
General comments concerning mapping and cleaning follow.
Most of the comments have been taken from the EXPLAIN files for
UVMAP and APCLN.
MX makes dirty maps and beams from (u,v) data using a Fast
Fourier Transform (FFT). The data may be in any sort order.
The data are convolved onto the regularly spaced grid which is
used for the Fourier transform. Maps of several frequency
channels, and a beam, can be made with one execution. One
polarization per execution.
A fairly complete description of the mapping functions
performed by MX is given in Lecture 2 of the Proceedings of
the NRAO-VLA Workshop on Synthesis Mapping. Observers who are
unfamiliar with interferometry are recommended to study this
If OUTDISK = 0, the map and beam will be put on the same
For effective CLEANing of the maps, the number of pixels
per beam should be such that the pixel value immediately north
or east of the beam center is no less than about 50 percent of the
peak. However, if tapering is used, the outlying (u,v) points
may not have any significant weight in the map.
Strong aliased sources should be CLEANed in separate fields
unless they are close to the object of interest.
MX will make maps which have a power of two pixels on a
side; between 32 and 4096 on the X-axis and between 32 and 4096
on the Y-axis. FLDSIZE defines the region to be searched for
If for some reason it is desirable to map a region much
larger than the region being CLEANed, IMSIZE can specify the
minimum size of a map. Components will be CLEANed from the
region specified by FLDSIZE but the output image size will be as
specified by IMSIZE. Values in IMSIZE must be powers of 2.
If you do not expect your source to show significant
circular polarization, as is normally the case with galactic
and extra-galactic continuum sources, making a V map can be a
useful diagnostic for calibration problems, correlator offsets,
etc. The V map should be a pure noise map close to the
theoretical sensitivity if your data base is well calibrated
The default uniform weighting option gives higher
resolution than natural weighting. However, uniform weighting
gives a lower signal to noise ratio. Natural weighting is
therefore preferable for detection experiments. With uniform
weighting the dirty beam size decreases slightly with larger
maps, other parameters remaining unchanged. In cases of very
centrally condensed uv coverage such as that resulting from the
VLA in the D array uniform weighting with a UVBOX greater than
0.0 may be desirable.
To improve CLEANing of extended sources, the zero-spacing
flux should be included in MX. The weight assigned should
normally be in the range 10-100 but you may need to experiment,
as the optimal value depends on your (u,v) coverage. Inclusion
of the zero-spacing flux will allow CLEAN to interpolate into
the inner region of the (u,v) plane more accurately, provided
that this flux does not exceed the average visibility at the
short spacing by too much. You must also CLEAN deeply to derive
the full benefit of this (see the EXPLAIN file for APCLN).
Jacqueline van Gorkom claims that the only proper weight
for the zero spacing flux density is the number of cells
missing in the center of the uv plane as long as the zero
spacing flux density doesn't greatly exceed the amount
observed on the shortest baselines.
UVBOX : UVBOX MUST be 0 for UV data which is NOT XY sorted!
If uniform weighting (UVWTFN other than 'NA') is
requested, the weight of each visibility is divided by the
number of visibilities occurring in a box in uv space centered
on the box containing the visibility point in question. If
UVBOX=0 the counting box is the same as the uv cell, UVBOX=1
uses 3X3 uv grid cells centered on the cell containing the
visibility UVBOX=2 uses 5X5 cells etc. The effect of
increasing UVBOX is to further down weight data occurring in
densely populated regions of the uv plane. Since must arrays
have centrally condensed uv coverage the effect of increasing
UVBOX is to decrease the beam size at a cost of reduced
sensitivity and a slightly messier beam. UVBOX=2 occasionally
appears to have a dramatic effect on the beam size for VLA data
from the D array.
The default convolution function Spheroidal (5) is now
recommended for nearly all maps.
MX de-convolves a dirty beam from a dirty map image using
the CLEAN algorithm [Hogbom 1974] as modified to take advantage
of the Array Processor [Clark 1980] and doing the subtraction
from the un-gridded uv data.
CLEAN iteratively constructs discrete approximant F(n) to
a solution F of the convolution equation:
B^F = D (1)
where D denotes the discrete representation of the dirty map,
B of the dirty beam, the symbol ^ here denoting convolution.
The initial approximant F(0)=0 everywhere. At the n'th
iteration, CLEAN searches for the extremum of the residual map
R determined at the (n-1)'th iteration:
R(n-1) = D - B^F(n-1) (2)
A delta-function "CLEAN component", centered at this extremum,
and of amplitude g (the loop GAIN) times its value, is added to
F(n-1) to yield F(n). The search over R is restricted to an
area A called the "CLEAN window". A is specified as a number
NFIELD of rectangular sub-areas.
Iterations continue until either the number of iterations n
reaches a preset limit N (=NITER), or the absolute value of the
extremum of the residual map decreases to a preset value FLUX.
If FLUX is negative, the clean stops at the first negative
To diminish any spurious high spatial frequency features in
the solution, F(N) is normally convolved with a "hypothetical"
Gaussian "Clean Beam" H to construct a final "Clean Map" C:
C = H^F(N) + R(N) (3)
The clean beam H may be specified by the user through the
parameters BMAJ, BMIN, BPA, or it may be defaulted to an
elliptical Gaussian fitted to the central region of the dirty
beam B. MX writes the array of "Clean Components" F(N) to
the CC extension files of the clean map image file.
The Clark algorithm speeds up the deconvolution process by
splitting it into "major" and "minor" iteration cycles. At the
beginning of the m'th major cycle, it loads into the AP a
RESTRICTED residual map R'(m) containing only the LARGEST
(positive and negative) values in the current residual map R(m).
It then performs a "minor" cycle of iterations wherein new CLEAN
components are sought with (a) the restricted residual map R'(m)
replacing the full residual map R and (b) the dirty beam B being
approximated by its values inside a small area (the "beam
PATCH") with zeroes outside.
A minor cycle is terminated at iteration n' when the peak
in the restricted residual map R'(n') falls to a given multiple
[Clark 1980] of the largest value that was ignored in R(m) when
R'(m) was passed to the the AP. At the end of the cycle of
minor iterations, the current clean component list F(n') is
Fourier transformed, subtracted from the ungridded uv data,
re-gridded and FFT-ed back the map plane, thereby performing
step (2) EXACTLY with the components list F(n') obtained at
the end of the minor cycle.
Errors introduced in the minor cycle through use of the
restricted beam patch are corrected to some extent at this step.
This ends the m'th major cycle, the (m+1)th beginning when the
new restricted residual map R'(m+1) is loaded into the AP.
CLEANing ends (with the transform steps used at the end of a
major cycle) when either the total number of minor iterations
reaches NITER, or the residual value being CLEANed at a minor
iteration reaches FLUX.
When dealing with two-dimensional extended structures,
CLEAN can produce artifacts in the form of low-level high
frequency stripes running through the brighter structure. These
stripes derive from poor interpolations into unsampled or poorly
sampled regions of the (u,v) plane. [When dealing with quasi
one-dimensional sources (jets), the artifacts resemble knots
(which may not be so readily recognized as spurious)].
MX invokes a modification of CLEAN that is intended to
bias it towards generating smoother solutions to the
deconvolution problem while preserving the requirement that the
transform of the CLEAN components list fits the data. The
mechanism for introducing this bias is the addition to the dirty
beam of a delta-function (or "spike") of small amplitude
(PHAT) while searching for the CLEAN components. [The beam
used for the deconvolution thereby resembles the helmet worn by
German military officers in World War I, hence the name
"Prussian Helmet Clean"]. The theory underlying the algorithm
is given by Cornwell (1982, 1983), where it is described as the
Smoothness Stabilized CLEAN (SSC).
If there is so little signal in your map that no side-lobes
of any source in it exceed the thermal noise, then no side-lobe
deconvolution is necessary, and CLEANing is a waste of your
time and of CPU cycles.
General - You can help CLEAN when you map
Other things being equal, the accuracy of the deconvolution
process is greatest when the shape of the dirty beam is well
sampled. When mapping complicated fields, it is often necessary
to compromise between cell size and field of view; if you are
going to CLEAN a map image, you should set up your mapping
parameters in MX so that there will be at least three or four
cells across the main lobe of the dirty beam.
It is also important to make the CLEANed region large
enough that no strong sources whose side-lobes will affect your
map have been aliased by the FFT. This can be done by making a
small map field around each confusing source.
Consider making a strongly tapered map of a wide
field around your source at low resolution to diagnose confusion
before running MX on a high resolution map(s) (especially when
processing snapshot data from the lower VLA frequencies).
It is helpful to regard CLEAN as an attempt to interpolate
missing samples in the (u,v) plane. The accuracy of the
interpolation is greatest where the original sampling is dense
or where the visibility function varies slowly. The accuracy is
least where you ask CLEAN to Extrapolate into poorly sampled or
unsampled regions of the (u,v) plane where the visibility
function changes rapidly.
One such region is the center of the (u,v) plane in any
map made from data where all of the fringe visibilities were
less than the integrated flux density of the source. You can
help CLEAN to guess what may have happened in the center of the
(u,v) plane (and thus to guess what the more extended structure
on your map should look like) by including a zero-spacing flux
density when you make your map. This gives CLEAN
a datum to "aim at" in the center of the (u,v) plane. Extended
structure can often be reconstructed well by deep CLEANing when
the zero-spacing flux density is between 100 percent and 125 percent of the
average visibility amplitude at the shortest spacings. If your
data do not meet this criterion, there may be no RELIABLE way
for you to reconstruct the more extended structure. (Some cases
with higher ratios of zero-spacing flux density to maximum
visibility amplitude can be successfully CLEANed, but
success is difficult to predict). If you see an increase in the
visibility amplitudes on the few shortest baselines in your
data, but not to near the integrated flux density, you may
get better maps of the FINE structure by excluding
these innermost baselines.
Another unsampled region lurks in the outer (u,v) plane in
many VLA maps of sources at declinations south of +50, if the
source has complicated fine structure. To see why, consult the
plots of (u,v) coverage for the VLA in Section 4 of the "Green
Book" [Hjellming 1982]. At lower declinations, some sectors of
the outer (u,v) plane are left poorly sampled, or unsampled,
even by "full synthesis" mapping. (There are missing sectors in
the outer (u,v) plane in ANY snapshot map). If the visibility
function of your source has much structure in the unsampled
sectors, CLEAN may work poorly on a high resolution map unless
it gets good "clues" about the source structure from the
well-sampled domain. If the clues are weak, badly extrapolated
visibilities in the unsampled regions can cause high frequency
ripples on the CLEAN map. In such cases, CLEAN may give maps
with better dynamic range if you are not too resolution-greedy,
and restrict your data to the well-sampled "core" of the (u,v)
Before applying CLEAN, examine your (u,v) coverage and
think whether you will be asking the algorithm to guess what
happened in such unsampled regions.
Frailties, Foibles and Follies
There are excellent discussions of CLEAN's built-in
idiosyncrasies by Schwarz (1978, 1979), by Clark (1982) and by
Another way of looking at CLEAN is to think of it as
attempting to answer the question "What is the distribution of
amplitudes at the CLEAN component positions [F(N)] which best
fits the visibility data, if we define the sky to be blank
everywhere else ?" The algorithm can then be thought of as
a "search" for places where F should be non-zero, and an
adjustment of the intensities in F(N) to obtain the "best"
agreement with the data.
The re-convolution of F(N) with the hypothetical "clean
beam" H produces a "clean map" C whose transform is no longer a
"best fit" to the data (due to differences between the
transforms of H and of the dirty beam B). The merit of the
re-convolution is that it produces maps whose noise properties
are pleasing to the eye. It may also be used to "cover up"
instabilities in CLEAN stemming from poor extrapolation into the
unsampled regions of the (u,v) plane, by making H significantly
wider than the main lobe of B.
Note also that step (3) of the standard CLEAN combines this
re-convolution with the residual map, which contains faint sky
features convolved with the DIRTY beam B. If there is
significant signal remaining in the residual map, the effective
resolution of the Clean Map C varies with brightness. You must
therefore be particularly careful when comparing Clean maps made
at different frequencies or in different polarizations; you
should CLEAN all such maps sufficiently deeply that the
integrated flux density in the CLEAN components F(N) is much
greater than that in the residual map R(N).
A recurrent question about CLEAN concerns the uniqueness of
the Clean Map. In the absence of noise, CLEAN could adjust the
amplitudes of the components in F(N) to minimize the rms
difference between the observed visibility function and the
transform of F(N) [Schwarz 1978, 1979]. If the number of
degrees of freedom in F(N) is less than the number in the data,
CLEAN can (and in many practical cases does) converge on a
solution that is sensibly independent of your input parameters.
Noise and approximations in the algorithms complicate this
[Cornwell 1982], but realize that the solution CANNOT be unique
if the number of positions at which you end up with CLEAN
components exceeds the number of independent (u,v) data points.
Be suspicious if your Clean Map contains structures which
resemble those of the dirty beam. This may mean either that you
have not CLEANed deeply enough,or that CLEAN has had difficulty
in some unsampled sector of the (u,v) plane in your case. This
test is particularly important in the case of snapshot maps,for
which the side-lobes of the dirty beam have a pronounced star
GAIN and NITER
The depth to which CLEAN carries out its deconvolution is
approximately measured by the product NITER*GAIN. The first
CC extension file version corresponds to the first output
A value of 0 for NITER is recognized to indicate that no
CLEANing is desired. In this case the dirty beam is always the
size of the largest field and the CLASS of the output images
are "IIMnnn" rather than "ICLnnn".
The value of NITER and the execution time needed
to reach a given CLEANing depth are minimized by setting GAIN =
1.0, but setting GAIN > 0.5 is recommended only when removing
the side-lobes of a single bright unresolved component from
surrounding fainter structure. Note that TELL may be used to
lower the GAIN after the first major cycles have removed the
bright point objects.
When CLEANing diffuse emission, GAIN = 0.1 (the
default) will be much better, for the following reason. The
search step of the algorithm begins its work at the highest peak
(which in an extended source may be a random noise "spike").
After one iteration, the spike is replaced in R by a negative
beam shape, so the next highest peaks are more likely to be found
where the spike would have had its biggest negative side-lobes
[see the diagram on p.11 of Clark (1982)]. If GAIN is high,
subsequent iterations tend to populate F(n) around the negative
sidelobe regions of the highest peaks. This "feedback" can be
turned off by making GAIN small enough that the negative
sidelobes of the first peaks examined in an extended structure
are lost in the noise, i.e. GAIN * (worst negative sidelobe
level) < signal-to-noise on the extended structure. In practice
setting GAIN << 0.1 makes CLEAN unacceptably slow (NITER too
large for a given CLEANing depth) so a compromise is needed.
GAINs in the range 0.1 to 0.25 are most commonly used.
If the source has some very bright compact features
embedded in weaker diffuse emission, it is illuminating to
examine the Clean Map when only the brightest structure has been
CLEANed, to check whether subsequent CLEANing of weaker diffuse
emission causes it to "go lumpy" via the sidelobe feedback
effect. This could be done with GAIN = 0.3-0.5, using either
NITER or the FIELD selection to ensure that the search does not
stray into the extended emission. Then MX can be restarted
with lower GAIN, higher NITER and wider fields to tackle the
diffuse structure. TELL may be used to lower the gain during
execution of MX. If the weak emission "goes lumpy" you may
need to rerun MX with different combinations of GAIN and
NITER to find the most effective one for your particular case.
Ultimately you will stop MX when the new CLEAN component
intensities approach the noise level on your map. On a map of
Stokes I, the appropriate stopping point will be indicated by
comparable numbers of positive and negative components appearing
in the CC list. On maps of Stokes Q and U, which can and will
be legitimately negative, you need to know the expected
sensitivity level of your observation to judge how deep to go.
It is NEVER worth increasing NITER and restarting MX
once many negative CLEAN components appear in the CC list of an
I map. When this occurs, you are using CLEAN to shuffle the
noise in the residual map, which is about as sensible as
rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic after it hit the
This provides an alternative to NITER for terminating the
iterations in a given run of CLEAN. In practice, most users
prefer to control CLEAN by limiting each execution with NITER.
FLUX should then be set to your expected rms noise level times
the dynamic range of the dirty beam (peak/worst sidelobe), to
ensure that you do not inadvertently waste time iterating to a
high value of NITER while in fact CLEANing emission whose
sidelobes are lost in the noise.
If FLUX is between -99 and -1, then clean stops on first
negative clean component. If FLUX < -99, then FLUX is
milli-precent change in total flux density between major cycles
(ie FLUX=-1000 => stop clean if < 1 percent change) A new adverb
will be added to replace the convoluted FLUX logic.
BMAJ, BMIN, BPA
The default values of 0 for these parameters invoke an
algorithm whereby the central portion of the dirty beam B is
fitted with an elliptical Gaussian function whose parameters are
then used to specify the Clean Beam H. The algorithm can be
"fooled" by positive or negative sidelobes near the main
lobe of B, and has been known to prescribe unsatisfactory forms
for H, particularly for snapshot maps.
It is normally preferable to specify BMAJ, BMIN and BPA
explicitly from your own examination of the dirty beam, or after
a trial fit using the default. The Clean Map C may be easier to
interpret if BMIN is set equal to BMAJ, so that H is a circular
Gaussian, and any elongated structures are therefore seen in
their correct orientation. The frailties of CLEAN's
deconvolution will be least apparent if both are set equal to
the LONGEST dimension of the dirty beam.
Attempts to "super resolve" the source by setting BMAJ and
BMIN to the SHORTEST dimension of the dirty beam (or shorter)
skate on the proverbial thin ice, the more so if the number of
clean components in F(N) is comparable to, or larger than, the
number of independent visibility data used to make the dirty
Note that if BMAJ, BMIN and BPA differ greatly from those
of the main lobe of the dirty beam, the parts of the Clean Map
derived from F(N) and from R(N) at step (3) will have greatly
different resolutions. This is very dangerous if R(N) contains
significant residual emission.
If BMAJ is set <0, then the output map contains the
residual map R(N) instead of the clean map C. This option
allows you to display, take hard copy of, or back up, the
residual map while deciding further strategy, retaining the
ability to regenerate the Clean Map later.
A practical detail: when NFIELD=1 and FLDSIZE specifies an
area <= 127 by 127, the entire residual map can be loaded into
an AP with 64k, and CLEAN can proceed very efficiently. This
speeds up execution enormously. If NFIELD>1, even if the area
in the fields adds up to less than 127 by 127, this economy is
A particularly large economy in run time is achieved when
this default is used with 128 by 128 (or smaller) maps. In the
128 by 128 case not only will the Clean Window default to 128
by 128, but the necessary FFTs can be done entirely within the
AP; under these circumstances MX proceeds at a headlong gallop.
This knob protrudes from the inner workings of the Clark
algorithm, enabling the user to vary the criterion [Clark 1980]
by which minor iteration cycles are ended.
[For those with an interest in the gory details - MX
first notes the ratio between the brightest point which was
ignored when the residual map R'(m) was passed to the AP and the
maximum residual R'(n') at some later iteration n'; it then
uses the Clark criterion with this ratio raised to the power
FACTOR replacing unity in Clark's summation].
FACTOR = 0 (the default) recovers the Clark criterion.
FACTOR > 0 allows the minor cycles to go on longer,
speeding up the CLEAN slightly (about 20 percent for FACTOR = 1), but
allowing you to get closer to the situation where residuals R'
in the AP become smaller than values which were ignored when the
AP was loaded. The search for new components becomes less and
less accurate (compared with a Hogbom algorithm using all of R
in step (2)), and the representation of extended structure in
the final F(N) deteriorates.
FACTOR < 0 makes the termination criterion more
conservative and thus improves the accuracy of the CLEANing at
the expense of forcing more major cycles with a corresponding
overhead in the FFTs done at the end of each one.
It is recommended that experiments with FACTOR normally be
confined to the range -0.3 < FACTOR < +0.3, negative values
being used when CLEANing complex extended structures, and
positive values when CLEANing very simple compact structures.
This parameter specifies the minimum half-width of the beam
patch that will be allowed in a minor cycle. A smaller beam
patch allows the CLEAN to go faster at the expense of less
accurate subtraction at each iteration. The inaccuracy can lead
to errors which will not be recovered completely at the end of
the major cycle, especially if high GAINs are used or the
source has complex structure. MINPATCH=51 is recommended for
CLEANing complicated sources. If the BEAM has large sidelobes
far from the beam center, the MINPATCH should be as large
as possible (<= 1024). (The BEAM often has large sidelobes for
VLA snap-shot images.)
The beam patch and the residuals to be cleaned in each
minor iteration must fit in the (pseudo) AP memory. This may
limit the number of pixels cleaned when MINPATCH is large. This
is not a consideration on most modern computers where we set the
AP size to 1 Megaword or more.
Use of DOTV > 0 is STRONGLY recommended when CLEANing a
source for the first time. It causes the residual map of field
number DOTV to be displayed on the TV after each major cycle,
allowing you to monitor what emerges as the CLEAN progresses.
DOTV > 0 produces a 15-sec pause after each major cycle to
give you time to inspect the display and to assess whether
it is reasonable to proceed. Pressing track-ball D during
this pause terminates MX in an orderly fashion. Pressing
buttons A,B,C (or allowing the pause time to elapse) starts
the next major cycle.
When CLEANing a very complicated source for the first time,
it is often worth going beyond this interactive approach, by
taking hard copy of various stages of the CLEAN to compare
carefully later. Consider setting NITER to a value in the range
50-200 at first. Then take hard copy of
the lightly CLEANed map for later reference, and restart MX
with a higher value of NITER. Doing this increasing NITER by
factors of order 2 each time can be very instructive in showing
you what CLEAN is doing to the extended structures in your
source. Spectral line users may wish to CLEAN a typical channel
in this way before deciding how best to parameterize MX for
their production runs. (Note that the trial channel should be
reanalyzed using the final choice of parameters, for
consistency; MX's final Clean maps depend in detail on the
relative numbers of major and minor cycles which have been
Sorting of UV data:
For historical reasons, there are two parallel data paths
for gridding and model subtraction within MX; one for XY sorted
UV data and the other for unsorted UV data. (Data must be
Time-Baseline (TB) sorted for the calibration process.) The XY
sorted algorithm was written first, and was kept although the
newer un-sorted algorithm has the identical functionality.
Subroutines UVTBUN, UVGRTB and ALGSTB are process un-sorted data
while UVUNIF, UVGRID, and ALGSUB process XY sorted data.
Proceedings of the NRAO-VLA Workshop on Synthesis Mapping
1982, ed. A.R.Thompson and L.R.D'Addario.
Clark, B.G. (1980). "An Efficient Implementation of the
Algorithm "CLEAN", Astron.Ap., 89, 377-378
Clark, B.G. (1982). "Large Field Mapping", Lecture #10 in the
NRAO-VLA Workshop on "Synthesis Mapping"
Cornwell, T.J. (1982). "Image Restoration (and the CLEAN
Technique)", Lecture #9 in the NRAO-VLA Workshop on
Hjellming,R.M. (1982). "An Introduction to the NRAO Very Large
Array", Section 4.
Hogbom,J.A. (1974). "Aperture Synthesis with a Non-Regular
Distribution of Interferometer Baselines",Astron.Ap.Suppl.,
Schwarz, U.J. (1978). "Mathematical-statistical Description of
the Iterative Beam Removing Technique", Astron.Ap.,65, 345.
Schwarz, U.J. (1979). "The Method "CLEAN" - Use, Misuse and
Variations", in Proc. IAU Colloq. No.49, "Image Formation
from Coherence Functions in Astronomy", ed. C. van
Schooneveld, (Dordrecht:Reidel), p. 261-275.
Cornwell,T.J. (1982). "Can CLEAN be Improved ?",VLA Scientific
Memorandum No. 141.
Cornwell,T.J. (1983). "A Method of Stabilizing the CLEAN