ngVLA Engineering Paper Selected for Prestigious IEEE Award


A team of engineers testing the design efficiency of reflectors for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s upcoming next generation Very Large Array (ngVLA) has received the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Harold A. Wheeler Applications Prize Paper Award for their research entitled, “An Optimal 18 m Shaped Offset Gregorian Reflector for the ngVLA Radio Telescope.” The award is presented to the authors of the best applications paper published in the IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation during the previous year. 

“The IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation is the top academic engineering journal in the field of electromagnetics and antenna design, receiving hundreds of submissions annually from leading researchers across the world,” said the paper’s lead author, Robert Lehmensiek, who will soon join NRAO’s Central Development Laboratory (CDL) as a research engineer. “This award recognizes our work as being at the forefront of global antenna design.” 

Dirk I.L. de Villiers, a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and co-author of the research added, “To be selected for the Harold A. Wheeler prize among so many high-quality papers is a great honor as this specifically highlights excellence in practical antenna design. Hopefully, this recognition by the broader antenna research and engineering community serves as further validation that the ngVLA will have a world-leading reflector system capable of doing all it was envisaged to do by the system designers.”

The award-winning research presented the optics design, and estimated the receiving sensitivity, of the 18-m shaped offset Gregorian reflector system proposed for use in the 244 antennas that will make up the main and long baseline arrays in the upcoming ngVLA. “In this research, we used detailed electromagnetic analyses to fully explore the performance parameters of the proposed antenna system for different reflector shapes,” said Lehmensiek, who led the research while an antenna engineer at EMSS Antennas, a contractor to NRAO for the ngVLA. “Ultimately, that allowed us to suggest a best-performing antenna reflector system for the ngVLA radio telescope.”

For the future ngVLA, the best-performing system will mean better focusing, more sensitivity, and better and faster science. “Better focusing means a more sensitive antenna. Improving the sensitivity of one reflector by even one percent equates roughly to having the collecting area of two extra dishes available in a 200-dish system,” said De Villiers. “More collecting area means we capture more of the faint radiation from the Universe in our telescope, and this directly translates to being able to make images, and do other science, faster. Like having a camera with a larger aperture allows you to take photos with higher shutter speed in low light, having a more sensitive radio telescope allows us to detect fainter signals while observing for a shorter time.”

“We are very excited to have Dr. Lehmensiek as CDL’s new electromagnetics and optics team lead,” said Bert Hawkins, Director of CDL. “In addition to continuing his award-winning work on antennas with the ngVLA project team, he will contribute to a number of other important observatory initiatives, including the ALMA Band 6 Version 2 receiver upgrade project, and the Next Generation RADAR collaboration between NRAO, Green Bank Observatory (GBO), and Raytheon Intelligence & Space.”

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

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