The Impact of the AuScope VLBI Observations and the Regional AUSTRAL Sessions on the TRF

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Lucia Plank1, James Lovell2, Jamie McCallum2, Johannes Boehm3, Stanislav Shabala2, David Mayer3, Jing Sun4, Oleg Titov5, Stuart Weston6, Jonathan Quick7 and Elizaveta Rastorgueva-Foi2, (1)University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia, (2)University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, (3)Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria, (4)Beijing Aerospace Control Center, Beijing, China, (5)Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia, (6)AUT Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand, (7)Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory, Hartebeesthoek, South Africa
The AuScope VLBI array was built with the purpose to improve the terrestrial (TRF) and celestial reference frames in the southern hemisphere. Since 2010 the three 12-m antennas in Hobart (Tasmania), Katherine (Northern Territory) and Yarragadee (Western Australia) heavily contribute to the global VLBI observations coordinated by the International VLBI Service for Geodesy and Astrometry. In 2011, the AUSTRAL VLBI program was started, with more than 40 sessions being observed so far. In the AUSTRALs, the three AuScope antennas observe together with the new 15-m dish in Hartebeesthoek (South Africa) and the 12-m antenna in Warkworth (New Zealand). Recently, the planned observations have been expanded again, with 50 additional sessions scheduled until mid-2015, along with 3 continuous campaigns covering 15 days each. All AUSTRALs are recorded with an increased data rate of 1 Gbps, allowing to compensate for the reduced sensitivity of the generally smaller dish size.

We evaluate the positive impact of the AuScope VLBI program on the global TRF. This is due to the increased number of observations and the improved homogeneity of the global VLBI network. All data collected within this intense observing program is analysed and geodetic results are presented. This includes time series of baseline lengths and station coordinates of the contributing stations. We compare the results obtained within the regional AUSTRAL sessions with the ones of the classical global VLBI networks and identify superiorities and shortcomings of both. The high number of sessions gives high accuracies and good repeatabilities of the determined parameters. Additionally, remaining variations of baseline lengths can be identified and are compared against by default un-modelled station motions due to hydrology and atmosphere loading.

Finally, we give an outlook on future plans for the AuScope antennas and the AUSTRAL observing program: on future operations, expected improvements through hardware upgrades as well as research on the use of sibling telescopes available at two sites within the AUSTRAL array (Hobart and Hartebeesthoek).