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Theory and simulations of refractive substructure in resolved scatter-broadened images

  • Author(s): Johnson, MD
  • Gwinn, CR
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2015. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. At radio wavelengths, scattering in the interstellar medium distorts the appearance of astronomical sources. Averaged over a scattering ensemble, the result is a blurred image of the source. However, Narayan & Goodman and Goodman & Narayan showed that for an incomplete average, scattering introduces refractive substructure in the image of a point source that is both persistent and wideband. We show that this substructure is quenched but not smoothed by an extended source. As a result, when the scatter-broadening is comparable to or exceeds the unscattered source size, the scattering can introduce spurious compact features into images. In addition, we derive efficient strategies to numerically compute realistic scattered images, and we present characteristic examples from simulations. Our results show that refractive substructure is an important consideration for ongoing missions at the highest angular resolutions, and we discuss specific implications for RadioAstron and the Event Horizon Telescope.

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