The IRA radio telescopes are currently undergoing major upgrades in response to the growing demand for deep radio observations, such as surveys on large sky areas or observations of vast samples of compact radio sources. The optimised employment of the Italian antennas, at first constructed mainly for VLBI activities and provided with a control system (FS – Field System) not tailored to single-dish observations, required important modifications in particular of the guiding software and data acquisition system.
The production of a completely new control system called ESCS (Enhanced Single-dish Control System) is being carried out in synergy with the software development for the Sardinia Radio Telescope (SRT). The aim is to produce a system optimised for single-dish observations in continuum, spectrometry and polarimetry. ESCS is at present in use in Medicina and is soon to be installed at the Noto site.
Together with this control system, several external tools have been developed in order to help the users in planning and executing their observing sessions and in analysing the acquired data. In this context an automatic digital system for radio interference (RFI) detection is being developed by means of an INAF – PRIN financing.
The overall enhancement, with respect to previous single-dish observations carried out exploiting the Field System/MarkV devices, can be quantified in an improvement in sensitivity by three orders of magnitude.