Next: Introduction

The VLA's FIRST Survey

Robert H. Becker

Department of Physics, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Richard L. White

Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218

David J. Helfand

Astronomy Department, Columbia University, 538 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027


Over the next decade the Very Large Array (VLA) will carry out a systematic survey of the northern sky at 20 cm wavelength in two configurations. We have selected as a moniker the acronym FIRST, which in uncompressed form reads Faint Images of the Radio Sky at Twenty-cm. The high-resolution survey will be done in B configuration and hence will achieve an angular resolution of 5 arcsec. It will cover a square degree region centered on the north Galactic pole. Each field will be observed for minutes with a resulting rms noise level of mJy. The survey will result in a catalog of discrete sources as well as images each composed of pixels. To expedite the massive data analysis task this project entails, we have decided to utilize computers.

It is our intention to release to the community compressed, machine-readable copies of all the images as well as an annotated catalog of sources. The challenge will be to accomplish this with a minimum of resources. We hope to automate maximally the data analysis pipeline to achieve this end. This paper describes the history of the project, its current status, and our data analysis methods, followed by a brief resumé of FIRST's expected scientific impact.

Published in Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems III, ASP Conference Series, v. 61, eds. D. R. Crabtree, R. J. Hanisch, & J. Barnes, p. 165 (1994)
© 1997 Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Keywords: radio sources, surveys, catalogs, active galaxies, starburst galaxies