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A comprehensive simulation package for radio interferometers in python

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pyuvsim is a comprehensive simulation package for radio interferometers in python.

A number of analysis tools are available to simulate the output of a radio interferometer (CASA, OSKAR, FHD, PRISim, et al), however each makes numerical approximations to enable speed ups. pyuvsim's goal is to provide a simulated instrument output which emphasizes accuracy and extensibility, and can represent the most general simulator design.

A comparison to other simulators may be found at ReadTheDocs.

Motivation and Approach

pyuvsim's two primary goals are interferometer simulation accuracy at the level of precision necessary for 21cm cosmology science, and maximum flexibility in use cases. Key elements of this approach include:

  1. High level of test coverage including accuracy (design goal is 97%).
  2. Include analytic tests in unittests.
  3. Comparison with external simulations.
  4. Design for scalability across many cpus.
  5. Fully-polarized instrument response, floating-point source position accuracy, full-sky field of view, and exact antenna positions.
  6. Support for varied beam models across the array.
  7. Defining a clear, user-friendly standard for simulation design.


A user-installation is achieved simply with pip install pyuvsim, or to get the bleeding-edge: pip install This will install all dependencies.

By default, mpi capabilities are not enabled -- many of the utilities provided in pyuvsim do not require it. To use the simulator within pyuvsim, you should install pyuvsim with pip install pyuvsim[sim].

There are a few more optional dependencies for pyuvsim which enable some features, such as line_profiler to use the built-in profiling, and h5py to write to HDF5 file format. If you would like these tools as well as the full simulator, install pyuvsim with pip install pyuvsim[all]

If you wish to manage dependencies manually, or are developing pyuvsim yourself, read on.

Note that pyuvsim is intended to run on clusters running the linux operating system.


If you are using conda to manage your environment, you may wish to install the following before installing pyuvsim:

conda install -c conda-forge "numpy>=1.15" "astropy>=3.0" "scipy>1.0.1" "mpi4py>=3.0.0" "pyyaml>=5.1" "pyuvdata>=1.3.7"


If you are developing pyuvsim, it is preferred that you do so in a fresh conda environment. The following commands will install all relevant development packages:

$ git clone
$ cd pyuvsim
$ conda create -n pyuvsim python=3
$ conda activate pyuvsim
$ conda env update -n pyuvsim -f environment.yml
$ pip install -e .

This will install extra dependencies required for testing/development as well as the standard ones.

The second-to-last line may also be replaced by pip install -r requirements.txt if you do not care about using conda.


A simulation requires sets of times, frequencies, source positions and brightnesses, antenna positions, and direction-dependent primary beam responses. pyuvsim specifies times, frequencies, and array configuration via a UVData object (from the pyuvdata package), source positions and brightnesses via Source objects, and primary beams either through UVBeam or AnalyticBeam objects.

  • All sources are treated as point sources, with flux specified in Stokes parameters and position in right ascension / declination in the International Celestial Reference Frame (equivalently, in J2000 epoch).
  • Primary beams are specified as full electric field components, and are interpolated in angle and frequency. This allows for an exact Jones matrix to be constructed for each desired source position.
  • Multiple beam models may be used throughout the array, allowing for more complex instrument responses to be modeled.

These input objects may be made from a data file or from a set of yaml configuration files. See Running a simulation.


Data from a simulation run are written out to a file in any format accessible with pyuvdata. This includes:

  • uvfits
  • uvh5

When read into a UVData object, the history string will contain information on the pyuvsim and pyuvdata versions used for that run (including the latest git hash, if available), and details on the catalog used.

Quick start guide

Example obsparam configuration files may be found in the reference_simulations directory.

  1. Install from github or pip.
  2. Run off of a parameter file with 20 MPI ranks:
mpirun -n 20 reference_simulations/obsparam_1.1.yaml


Documentation on how to run simulations and developer API documentation is hosted on ReadTheDocs.


pyuvsim uses the pytest package for unit testing. If you've cloned the source into a directory pyuvsim/, you may verify it as follows:

  1. Install pytest from anaconda or pip.
  2. Run the pytest from pyuvsim/

You can alternatively run python -m pytest pyuvsim or python test. You will need to have all dependencies installed.

Where to find Support

Please feel free to submit new issues to the issue log to request new features, document new bugs, or ask questions.

How to contribute

Contributions to this package to add new features or address any of the issues in the issue log are very welcome. Please submit improvements as pull requests against the repo after verifying that the existing tests pass and any new code is well covered by unit tests.

Bug reports or feature requests are also very welcome, please add them to the issue log after verifying that the issue does not already exist. Comments on existing issues are also welcome.

Versioning Approach

We use a generation.major.minor format.

  • Generation - Release combining multiple new physical effects and or major computational improvements. Testing: Backed by unittests, internal model validation, and significant external comparison.
  • Major - Adds new physical effect or major computational improvement. Small number of improvements with each release. Testing: Backed by unittests, internal model validation and limited external comparison.
  • Minor - Bug fixes and small improvements not expected to change physical model. Testing: Backed by unittests

Some helpful definitions

  • Physical effects: things like polarization effects, noise, ionospheric modeling, or nonterrestrial observing positions.
  • Major computational improvement: Support for new catalog types (e.g, diffuse maps), new analysis tools, changes to parallelization scheme
  • Small improvements: Better documentation or example code, outer framework redesign.

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