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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T028270/1
Title: Extreme-scale precision Imaging in Radio Astronomy (EIRA)
Principal Investigator: Wiaux, Professor Y
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
CentraleSupelec National Radio Astronomy Observatory Rhodes University
Siemens Healthineers SKA Organisation Swiss Federal Inst of Technology (EPFL)
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2020 Ends: 31 August 2023 Value (£): 740,115
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Astron. & Space Sci. Technol. Digital Signal Processing
Image & Vision Computing Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
20 May 2020 EPSRC ICT Prioritisation Panel May 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Aperture synthesis by interferometry in radio astronomy is a powerful technique allowing observation of the sky with antennae arrays at otherwise inaccessible angular resolutions and sensitivities. Image formation is however a complicated problem. Radio-interferometric measurements provide incomplete linear information about the sky, defining an ill-posed inverse imaging problem. Powerful computational imaging algorithms are needed to inject prior information into the data and recover the underlying image.

The transformational science envisaged from radio astronomical observations for the next decades has triggered the development of new gigantic radio telescopes, such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), capable of imaging the sky at much higher resolution, with much higher sensitivity than current instruments, over wide fields of view. In this context, wide-band image cubes will exhibit rich structure and reach sizes between 1 Terabyte (TB) and 1 Petabyte (PB), while associated data volumes will reach the Exabyte (EB) scale. Endowing SKA and pathfinders with their expected acute vision requires image formation algorithms capable to transform the data and provide the target imaging precision (i.e. resolution and dynamic range), while simultaneously being robust (i.e. addressing calibration and uncertainty quantification challenges), and scalable to the extreme image sizes and data volumes at stake.

The commonly used imaging algorithm in the field, dubbed CLEAN, owes its success to its simplicity and computational speed. CLEAN however crucially lacks the versatility to handle complex signal models, thereby limiting the achievable resolution and dynamic range of the formed images. The same holds for the existing associated calibration methods that need to correct for instrumental and ionospheric effects affecting the data. Another major limitation in radio-interferometric imaging is the absence of a proper methodology to quantify the uncertainty around the image estimate.

A decade of research pioneered by Wiaux and his collaborators suggests that the theory of optimisation is a powerful and versatile framework to design new radio-interferometric imaging algorithms. In the optimisation framework, an objective function is defined as sum of a data-fidelity term and a regularisation term promoting a given prior signal model. Our research hypothesis is that algorithmic structures currently emerging at the interface of optimisation and deep learning can take the challenge of delivering the expected generation of algorithms for precision robust scalable radio-interferometric imaging, in a wide-band wide-field polarisation context.

A novel approach will be developed in this context, based on the decomposition of the data into blocks and of the image cube into small, regular, overlapping 3D facets. Facet-specific regularisation terms and block-specific data-fidelity terms will all be handled in parallel through so-called proximal splitting optimisation methods, thereby unlocking simultaneously the image and data size bottlenecks. Injecting prior information into the inverse imaging problem at facet level also offers potential to better promote local spatio-spectral correlation, and eventually provide the target image precision. Sophisticated prior models based on advanced regularisation simultaneously promoting sparsity, correlation, positivity etc., will firstly be considered, to be substituted by learned priors using deep neural networks in a second stage with the aim to further improve precision and scalability. Facets and neural networks will percolate from the imaging module to calibration and uncertainty quantification for robustness. Our algorithms will be validated up to 10TB image size on High Performance Computing (HPC) machines. A technology transfer at 1GB image size will be performed in medical imaging, specifically 3D magnetic resonance and ultrasound imaging, as proof of their wider applicability.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk