The design and operation of a new generation of digital imaging riometer systems developed by Lancaster University are presented. In the heart of the digital imaging riometer is a field-programmable gate array (FPGA), which is used for the digital signal processing and digital beam forming, completely replacing the analog Butler matrices which have been used in previous designs. The reconfigurable nature of the FPGA has been exploited to produce tools for remote system testing and diagnosis which have proven extremely useful for operation in remote locations such as the Arctic and Antarctic. Different FPGA programs enable different instrument configurations, including a 4 × 4 antenna filled array (producing 4 × 4 beams), an 8 × 8 antenna filled array (producing 7 × 7 beams), and a Mills cross system utilizing 63 antennas producing 556 usable beams. The concept of using a Mills cross antenna array for riometry has been successfully demonstrated for the first time. The digital beam forming has been validated by comparing the received signal power from cosmic radio sources with results predicted from the theoretical beam radiation pattern. The performances of four digital imaging riometer systems are compared against each other and a traditional imaging riometer utilizing analog Butler matrices. The comparison shows that digital imaging riometer systems, with independent receivers for each antenna, can obtain much better measurement precision for filled arrays or much higher spatial resolution for the Mills cross configuration when compared to existing imaging riometer systems
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