Regularized maximum likelihood image synthesis and validation for ALMA continuum observations of protoplanetary disks

Brianna Zawadzki, Ian Czekala, Ryan A. Loomis, Tyler Quinn, Hannah Grzybowski, Robert C. Frazier, Jeff Jennings, Kadri M. Nizam, Yina Jian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regularized Maximum Likelihood (RML) techniques are a class of image synthesis methods that achieve better angular resolution and image fidelity than traditional methods like CLEAN for sub-mm interferometric observations. To identify best practices for RML imaging, we used the GPU-accelerated open source Python package MPoL, a machine learning-based RML approach, to explore the influence of common RML regularizers (maximum entropy, sparsity, total variation, and total squared variation) on images reconstructed from real and synthetic Atacama Large millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) continuum observations of protoplanetary disks. We tested two different cross-validation (CV) procedures to characterize their performance and determine optimal prior strengths, and found that CV over a coarse grid of regularization strengths easily identifies a range of models with comparably strong predictive power. To evaluate the performance of RML techniques against a ground truth image, we used MPoL on a synthetic protoplanetary disk data set and found that RML methods successfully resolve structures at fine spatial scales present in the original simulation. We used ALMA DSHARP observations of the protoplanetary disk around HD 143006 to compare the performance of MPoL and CLEAN, finding that RML imaging improved the spatial resolution of the image by up to a factor of 3 without sacrificing sensitivity. We provide general recommendations for building an RML workflow for image synthesis of ALMA protoplanetary disk observations, including effective use of CV. Using these techniques to improve the imaging resolution of protoplanetary disk observations will enable new science, including the detection of protoplanets embedded in disks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number064503
Number of pages24
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number1048
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2023


  • Protoplanetary disks
  • Submillimeter astronomy
  • Radio interferometry
  • Deconvolution
  • Open source software


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