The GMRT software backend (GSB) file format is the standard output of the initial correlator of the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT). The GSB design is described by Roy et al. (2010, Exper. Astron. 28:25-60) with further specifications and operating procedures given on the relevant GMRT/GSB pages.

File Structure

A GSB dataset consists of an ASCII file with a sequence of headers, and one or more accompanying binary data files. Each line in the header and its corresponding data comprise a data frame, though these do not have explicit divisions in the data files.

Baseband currently supports two forms of GSB data: rawdump, for storing real-valued raw voltage timestreams from individual telescopes, and phased, for storing complex pre-channelized data from the GMRT in phased array baseband mode.

Data in rawdump format is stored in a binary file representing the voltage stream from one polarization of a single dish. Each such file is accompanied by a header file which contains GPS timestamps, in the form:


In the default rawdump observing setup for 16 MHz bandwidth, samples are recorded at a rate of 33.3333… megasamples per second (Msps). Each sample is 4 bits in size, and two samples are grouped into bytes such that the oldest sample occupies the least significant bit. Each frame consists of 4 megabytes of data, or \(2^{23}\) samples; as such, the timespan of one frame is exactly 0.25165824 s.

In phased array baseband mode using 16 or 32 MHz bandwidth, the “raw”, or pre-channelized, sample rate is either 33.3333… Msps or 66.6666… Msps, with 8 bits per sample. Channelization via fast Fourier transform sets the channelized complete sample rate to the raw rate divided by \(2N_\mathrm{F}\), where \(N_\mathrm{F}\) is the number of Fourier channels (usually 512). The timespan of one frame is 0.25165824 s, and the total amount of data associated with a frame is thus either 4 or 8 megabytes.

The data are normally spread over multiple binary files and one accompanying header file. The binary files are split by polarization, with for each polarization either a single file or a pair of files, with the pair containing the first and second half of the data of each frame. In each file, the data associated with a frame is always 4 megabytes.

The phased header’s structure is:


where <PC TIME> and <GPS TIME> are the less accurate computer-based and exact GPS-based timestamps, respectively, with the same format as the rawdump timestamp; <SEQ NUMBER> is the frame number; and <MEM BLOCK> a redundant modulo-8 shared memory block number.

Usage Notes

This section covers reading and writing GSB files with Baseband; general usage is covered in the Using Baseband section. While Baseband features the general and baseband.file_info functions, these cannot read GSB binary files without the accompanying timestamp file (at which point it is obvious the files are GSB). baseband.file_info, however, can be used on the timestamp file to determine if it is in rawdump or phased format.

The examples below use the samplefiles in the baseband/data/gsb/ directory, and the numpy, astropy.units and baseband.gsb modules:

>>> import numpy as np
>>> import astropy.units as u
>>> from baseband import gsb
>>> from import (

A single timestamp file can be opened with open in text mode:

>>> ft =, 'rt')
>>> ft.read_timestamp()
<GSBRawdumpHeader gps: 2015 04 27 18 45 00 0.000000240>
>>> ft.close()

Reading payloads requires the samples per frame or sample rate. For phased the sample rate is:

sample_rate = raw_sample_rate / (2 * nchan)

where the raw sample rate is the pre-channelized one, and nchan the number of Fourier channels. The samples per frame for both rawdump and phased is:

samples_per_frame = timespan_of_frame * sample_rate


Since the number of samples per frame is an integer number while both the frame timespan and sample rate are not, it is better to separately caculate samples_per_frame rather than multiplying timespan_of_frame with sample_rate in order to avoid rounding issues.

Alternatively, if the size of the frame buffer and the frame rate are known, the former can be used to determine samples_per_frame, and the latter used to determine sample_rate by inverting the above equation.

If samples_per_frame is not given, Baseband assumes the standard payload size of 4 megabytes, which implies 4 megabytes of data per frame for rawdump, and 4 or 8 megabytes for phased (depending on the number of files per polarization). If sample_rate is not given, it is calculated from samples_per_frame assuming that each frame spans 0.25165824 s. (see File Structure above).

A single payload file can be opened with open in binary mode. Here, for our sample file, we have to take into account that in order to keep these files small, their sample size has been reduced to only 4 or 8 kilobytes worth of samples per frame (for the default timespan). So, we define their sample rate here, and use that to calculate payload_nbytes, the size of one frame in bytes. Since rawdump samples are 4 bits, payload_nbytes is just samples_per_frame / 2:

>>> rawdump_samples_per_frame = 2**13
>>> payload_nbytes = rawdump_samples_per_frame // 2
>>> fb =, 'rb', payload_nbytes=payload_nbytes,
...               nchan=1, bps=4, complex_data=False)
>>> payload = fb.read_payload()
>>> payload[:4]
array([[ 0.],
       [ 0.]], dtype=float32)
>>> fb.close()

(payload_nbytes for phased data is the size of one frame divided by the number of binary files for each polarization.)

Working in Stream Mode

Opening in stream mode allows timestamp and binary files to be read in concert to create data frames, and also wraps the low-level routines such that reading and writing is in units of samples, and provides access to header information.

When opening a rawdump file in stream mode, we pass the timestamp file as the first argument, and the binary file to the raw keyword. As per above, we also pass samples_per_frame:

>>> fh_rd =, mode='rs',
...                  raw=SAMPLE_GSB_RAWDUMP,
...                  samples_per_frame=rawdump_samples_per_frame)
>>> fh_rd.header0
<GSBRawdumpHeader gps: 2015 04 27 18 45 00 0.000000240>
>>> dr =
>>> dr.shape
>>> dr[:3]
array([ 0., -2., -2.], dtype=float32)
>>> fh_rd.close()

To open a phased fileset in stream mode, we package the binary files into a nested tuple with the format:

((L pol stream 1, L pol stream 2), (R pol stream 1, R pol stream 2))

The nested tuple is passed to raw. Below, we look at the sample files and open these. In general, it is a good idea to check that the resulting stream has the right properties, e.g., the correct bandwidth and the expected start and stop times. So, we use .info (note that because our sample files have been reduced in size we have to pass a non-default samples per frame and get very small sample_rate, bandwidth, and payload_nbytes):

>>> phased_samples_per_frame = 2**3
>>> fh_ph =, mode='rs',
...                  raw=SAMPLE_GSB_PHASED,
...                  samples_per_frame=phased_samples_per_frame)
GSBStream information:
start_time = 2013-07-27T21:23:55.324108800
stop_time = 2013-07-27T21:23:57.840691200
sample_rate = 3.178914388020833e-05 MHz
shape = (80, 2, 512)
format = gsb
bps = 8
complex_data = True
verify = True
bandwidth = 0.016276041666666664 MHz
n_raw = 2
payload_nbytes = 4096
readable = True

checks:  decodable: True
         consistent: True

GSBTimeStampIO information:
mode = phased
number_of_frames = 10
frame_rate = 3.9736429849163546 Hz
>>> header0 = fh_ph.header0     # To be used for writing, below.
>>> dp =
>>> dp.shape
(80, 2, 512)
>>> dp[0, 0, :3]    
array([30.+12.j, -1. +8.j,  7.+19.j], dtype=complex64)
>>> fh_ph.close()

To set up a file for writing, we need to pass names for both timestamp and raw files, as well as sample_rate, samples_per_frame, and either the first header or a time object. We first calculate sample_rate:

>>> timespan = 0.25165824 * u.s
>>> rawdump_sample_rate = (rawdump_samples_per_frame / timespan).to(u.MHz)
>>> phased_sample_rate = (phased_samples_per_frame / timespan).to(u.MHz)

To write a rawdump file:

>>> from astropy.time import Time
>>> fw_rd ='test_rawdump.timestamp',
...                  mode='ws', raw='test_rawdump.dat',
...                  sample_rate=rawdump_sample_rate,
...                  samples_per_frame=rawdump_samples_per_frame,
...                  time=Time('2015-04-27T13:15:00'))
>>> fw_rd.write(dr)
>>> fw_rd.close()
>>> fh_rd ='test_rawdump.timestamp', mode='rs',
...                  raw='test_rawdump.dat',
...                  sample_rate=rawdump_sample_rate,
...                  samples_per_frame=rawdump_samples_per_frame)
>>> np.all(dr ==
>>> fh_rd.close()

To write a phased file, we need to pass a nested tuple of filenames or filehandles:

>>> test_phased_bin = (('test_phased_pL1.dat', 'test_phased_pL2.dat'),
...                    ('test_phased_pR1.dat', 'test_phased_pR2.dat'))
>>> fw_ph ='test_phased.timestamp',
...                  mode='ws', raw=test_phased_bin,
...                  sample_rate=phased_sample_rate,
...                  samples_per_frame=phased_samples_per_frame,
...                  header0=header0)
>>> fw_ph.write(dp)
>>> fw_ph.close()
>>> fh_ph ='test_phased.timestamp', mode='rs',
...                  raw=test_phased_bin,
...                  sample_rate=phased_sample_rate,
...                  samples_per_frame=phased_samples_per_frame)
>>> np.all(dp ==
>>> fh_ph.close()

Baseband does not use the PC time in the phased header, and, when writing, simply uses the same time for both GPS and PC times. Since the PC time can drift from the GPS time by several tens of milliseconds, test_phased.timestamp will not be identical to SAMPLE_GSB_PHASED, even though we have written the exact same data to file.


baseband.gsb Package

GMRT Software Backend (GSB) data reader.



info(name, **kwargs)

Collect GSB file information.

open(name[, mode])

Open GSB file(s) for reading or writing.


GSBFrame(header, payload[, valid, verify])

Frame encapsulating GSB rawdump or phased data.

GSBHeader([words, mode, nbytes, utc_offset, …])

GSB Header, based on a line from a timestamp file.

GSBPayload(words, *[, header, sample_shape, …])

Container for decoding and encoding GSB payloads.

Class Inheritance Diagram

Inheritance diagram of baseband.gsb.frame.GSBFrame, baseband.gsb.header.GSBHeader, baseband.gsb.payload.GSBPayload

baseband.gsb.header Module

Definitions for GSB Headers, using the timestamp files.

Somewhat out of data description for phased data: and for rawdump data


TimeGSB(val1, val2, scale, precision, …[, …])

GSB header date-time format YYYY MM DD HH MM SS 0.SSSSSSSSS.

GSBHeader([words, mode, nbytes, utc_offset, …])

GSB Header, based on a line from a timestamp file.

GSBRawdumpHeader([words, mode, nbytes, …])

GSB rawdump header.

GSBPhasedHeader([words, mode, nbytes, …])

GSB phased header.

Class Inheritance Diagram

Inheritance diagram of baseband.gsb.header.TimeGSB, baseband.gsb.header.GSBHeader, baseband.gsb.header.GSBRawdumpHeader, baseband.gsb.header.GSBPhasedHeader

baseband.gsb.payload Module

Definitions for GSB payloads.

Implements a GSBPayload class used to store payload blocks, and decode to or encode from a data array.



GSBPayload(words, *[, header, sample_shape, …])

Container for decoding and encoding GSB payloads.

Class Inheritance Diagram

Inheritance diagram of baseband.gsb.payload.GSBPayload

baseband.gsb.frame Module


GSBFrame(header, payload[, valid, verify])

Frame encapsulating GSB rawdump or phased data.

Class Inheritance Diagram

Inheritance diagram of baseband.gsb.frame.GSBFrame

baseband.gsb.base Module


open(name[, mode])

Open GSB file(s) for reading or writing.

info(name, **kwargs)

Collect GSB file information.



Simple reader/writer for GSB time stamp files.

GSBFileReader(fh_raw, payload_nbytes[, …])

Simple reader for GSB data files.


Simple writer for GSB data files.

GSBStreamBase(fh_ts, fh_raw, header0[, …])

Base for GSB streams.

GSBStreamReader(fh_ts, fh_raw[, …])

GSB format reader.

GSBStreamWriter(fh_ts, fh_raw[, header0, …])

GSB format writer.

Class Inheritance Diagram

Inheritance diagram of baseband.gsb.base.GSBTimeStampIO, baseband.gsb.base.GSBFileReader, baseband.gsb.base.GSBFileWriter, baseband.gsb.base.GSBStreamBase, baseband.gsb.base.GSBStreamReader, baseband.gsb.base.GSBStreamWriter