Welcome to the European ALMA Regional Centre Newsletter!
This Newsletter is a compilation of recent European ALMA Regional Centre Announcement items. Follow the links or visit the European ARC Announcements to read more. In addition to these Announcements the Newsletter informs you about various developments in the ALMA Programme, as well as about ALMA or ALMA-related meetings.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Chile and the measures announced by the Government that include, among others, the suspension of all schools, the ALMA management has decided to emplace a contingency plan that enables the Observatory to reduce operations to a minimum level in the coming days, with many staff working remotely. The goal is to reduce the number of people at both sites, Santiago Central Offices and the Observatory in Northern Chile, to minimize the chances of infections and thereby maximize the safety and well-being of all staff and contractors.
Please note that the Cycle 8 Call for Proposals has been suspended due to COVID-19
The ALMA Director, on behalf of the Joint ALMA Observatory and the partner organizations in East Asia, Europe, and North America, is pleased to announce that the ALMA Cycle 8 Call for Proposals for scientific observations is now open.
As everyone is aware, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to impact the global community. As such, the ALMA Director, along with the regional partners, have decided to delay the proposal deadline for the ALMA Cycle 8 Call for Proposals to NO EARLIER than 1500 UT on 19 May, 2020. More information is provided in the following News Item.
ALMA continues to carefully monitor the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the evolving global situation. The next update to the community will be provided NO LATER than 21 April, 2020. For additional questions regarding the Cycle 8 Call for Proposals, contact the ALMA Helpdesk at http://help.almascience.org.
ALMA is strongly committed to ensure that the proposal review process is as fair and impartial as possible. Analysis of the proposal rankings in previous cycles has identified systematics that may signify the presence of biases in the review process (see Systematics in the ALMA Proposal Review Rankings). In an effort to reduce biases as much as possible, ALMA will use a dual-anonymous proposal review process starting in Cycle 8.
We are happy to announce that, since March 16 it is also possible to inspect and download data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) through ESASky (http://sky.esa.int). This has been possible thanks to a collaboration between the ESA's ESAC Science Data Centre (ESDC) and the ALMA Regional Centre (ARC) at the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
Leiden Observatory invites applications for a Program Manager position at the European ALMA Regional Center node in the Netherlands, Allegro. The position will be filled at an Assistant or Associate Research Scientist level and is offered for an initial period of up to 6 years. Continuation of employment after that period depends on availability of funding, and on qualifications and performance of the candidate. The position includes a 50% allocation for independent research. For more details on this position and how to apply, see https://jobs.strw.leidenuniv.nl/2020/allegropm.
The ARC network now has a social media presence! We aim to report on everything from insider information on the latest European ALMA results to life at the nodes, reports from both technical and scientific meetings and workshops, and exclusive insights into what it's like to be an (ALMA) astronomer. Come and join us on Facebook (@ALMAEUARC), Instagram (@alma_europe) or Twitter (@ALMA_Europe)!
The deadline for submission of ACA Cycle 7 supplemental proposals was 1 October 2019. There were 249 proposals recieved with a request totalling 8199 hours, vastly exceeding the anticipated 2500 hours to be offered. This was the first call to use the distributed peer review system at ALMA. There were 99 projects accepted with a total of 3069 hours observing time. In addition 1294 hours of Total Power time was also accepted. The proposal acceptance rate was independent of time requested per project, which ranged from a few hours up to ~150 hours per proposal. Band 3 and 6 were the preferred bands of choice. For more details see the offical report.
Cycle 8, planned to start October 2020 and last through to September 2021 has a number of key differences to previous ALMA cycles.
Array configurations will now be referred to by C-1, C-2, and so forth. Similar to how in Cycle 7 the configurations were pre-fixed with C43. C-1 of Cycle 8 has similar characteristics as C43-1 from Cycle 7.
Only configurations C-1 to C-8 with maximal baselines ranging from 0.16 to 8.5 km will be available, where C-8 will only be open to Bands 3 through Band 7. Thus excluding the longest two baselines.
The proposal review will be a double-anonymous process, such that the reviewers will not know who any of the authors of the proposal are.
In Cycle 8, the following technical capabilities will be available for the first time:
Solar observations in Band 5
VLBI observations of faint science targets (correlated flux density <500 mJy within an unresolved core on ALMA baselines up to 1 km). These observations will be done in passive phasing mode, where it is recommended to have a bright calibrator within 5 deg of the science target.
High-frequency observations (Bands 9 and 10) with the stand-alone 7-m Array
Mosaicking of continuum linear polarization observations (Bands 3 to 7)
Spectral scans with the 7-m Array
Key dates to remember:
17 March 2020 - Call for proposals and OT release
15 April 2020 - Cycle 8 deadline
End July 2020 - Results of proposal reviews
9 September 2020 - Main Call Phase 2 submission deadline
15 September 2020 - Supplemental call opens
8 October 2020 - Supplemental call phase I deadline
Phase I of the ALMA Band 2 Project Begins: Construction of Prototype Cartridges
Contribution: Tony Mroczkowski (ALMA Band 2 Project Scientist) and Ciska Kemper (EU ALMA Program Scientist), on behalf of the ALMA Band 2 Project Consortium
Since its inception, ALMA has planned to have ten bands spanning frequencies across the millimetre/sub-millimetre atmospheric windows available from its high, dry site in the Atacama Desert. We are pleased to announce that the first steps in completion of the final ALMA band, Band 2 (formally 67-90 GHz), have been taken as an ESO-led ALMA project: six prototype receiver cartridges will be built and tested, with design reviews in the coming years. This represents Phase I of the ALMA Band 2 project. Phase II, pending review and approval by ALMA leadership, will include the construction, installation, and commissioning of a full complement of Band 2 receiver cartridges that could be observing in just a few short years.
Recently published in Yagoubov et al. (2020), the Band 2 instrument paper details the design and some of the scientific motivations for the wide band receiver cartridge. Importantly, the prototype receiver, shown in the inset image here, is capable of observations spanning sky frequencies of 67-116 GHz, covering the entire ALMA Band 2 and 3 atmospheric window. The ability to cover these on-sky frequencies is just one exciting possibility for the project, depending on review and component down-select of the low noise amplifiers (LNAs) to take place within the year. Just as important, the prototype Band 2 receiver has an instantaneous output bandwidth >3.5 times greater than the current < 8 GHz bandwidth delivered by ALMA, anticipating potential future upgrades to the correlator and backend electronics that would greatly improve ALMA's imaging speed and spectral reach. And while the project is ESO-led, the project has benefited tremendously from contributions from all of ALMA's partner regions, including Chile, and the final optical components will be provided by NAOJ as an in-kind contribution.
First, wide Band 2 will open the possibility of probing deuterated isotopologues of common molecules seen in Band 3. The line ratios of these species are crucial in probing the so-called "CO snowline," where molecular gas in protoplanetary disks begins to form ice. Wide Band 2 will be the first band capable of probing the deuterated and hydrogenated isotopologues simultaneously, increasing the speed and robustness with which we can measure these ratios. Thus this capability will improve ALMA's capability to probe the origins of planets.
Second, wide Band 2 will probe a rich forest of ground-state molecular transitions. These ground-state transitions are on average less crowded and have higher brightness temperatures than at higher frequencies (see e.g. Beltrán et al. 2015). If coupled with suitable digitiser and correlator upgrades, one will be able to probe the full 67-116 GHz in only two spectral setups, furthering ALMA's capacity to probe the origins of chemical complexity. As noted in ALMA Memo #605, this will be a dramatic leap forward since a complete spectral scan of Band 3 alone (84-116 GHz) currently requires five spectral setups.
And finally, wide Band 2 will open new spectroscopic windows on bright molecular lines from high-redshift galaxies, often probing more than one line in a single observational setup. Identifying two or more lines from a newly-discovered, dusty high-redshift galaxy is crucial for secure detections and confirmation, and directly benefits the key science driver of probing the origins of galaxies.
1st International Solar ALMA Imaging Workshop - a brief report
Sven Wedemeyer (UiO), Miro Barta (EU ARC), Tim Bastian (NA ARC), and Masumi Shimojo (EA ARC) on behalf of the SOC
With generous hospitality of local organizers, the 1st International Solar ALMA Imaging Workshop (https://hinode.nao.ac.jp/user/shimojo/ALMA-SOL-IMG1/) took place in the Rosseland Center for Solar Physics at Uni Oslo (UiO), Norway, on March 2nd - 5th,2020. The workshop was attended by around 30 participants from all three ARCs, ESO, JAO, and from the user community, some of them remotely via Zoom session.
The participants discussed open questions related to solar science with ALMA. Not only execution of the solar observations has to use particular technical setup (e.g., attenuation, ephemeris-controlled pointing, "kitchen-sink" array), but also the data processing and imaging differs from non-solar targets. Namely, the QA2-processed data are still too far from what the users expect as "science ready". This is namely because the Sun's dynamics at small scales, which requires time-domain imaging.
Introductory talks summarized the current status of the standard QA2 procedures at all three ARCs, with outlooks for improvements and eventual transition towards the standard ALMA pipeline. Experts from ARCs and from the experienced user's community then presented tools for advanced post-processing, whose outcome are self-calibrated series of high-cadence solar images. Solar movies produced this way are really impressive, showing the striking headway accomplished during recent years. Nevertheless, the procedure for self-cal imaging calls for more rigorous verification. The UiO group presented a system of software tools, built in connection with their ALMA Development Study, that can provide a verification system based on simulated visibilities derived from MHD models of the Sun. Comparing the results of the imaging process with the input maps allows for finding optimal parameters for the time-domain imaging procedures.
Solar observations are specific in yet another respect: The entire FoV is filled with complex emission. The TP complementary observations with reasonable time cadence are thus essential. Possible improvements in the TP data calibration, avoiding deficiencies in the pointing pattern and unusual atmospheric effects, and combination of the TP data with the self-calibrated interferometric image series, were discussed.
After the introductory presentations and thorough discussion of the topics, the participants split into WGs and worked on solar data from the past observing cycles, trying to combine suggested alternative strategies for advanced post-processing. Results of the WG activities have been summarized at the end of the workshop. Of course, it was not possible to finalize optimized procedures during the workshop, however, preliminary results mark promising directions for future development.
Outcomes of the workshop are important for the solar-physics community as the developed and rigorously validated procedures enable science-ready solar data to a much broader set of users lacking particular expertise in interferometry and ALMA. But, at the same moment, the impressive progress in self-calibrated solar image series allows further increase of capabilities of the Solar ALMA ObsMode: The recently proposed Development Study, targeted at solar observations at longer baselines, could definitely profit from the headway reached.
At the Nordic ARC we are planning a series of online events to assist you in preparing your proposals for ALMA Cycle 8. We will host Proposal Preparation Days on several dates. Nordic ARC staff will be available online to set up and optimise your proposals and assess their feasibility. Please, sign up to help us allocating resources:
Regardless whether you can participate in the above events, you can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for support at any time. More than ever, we will try our best to be flexible to accommodate support for your proposal preparation.
Allegro ALMA proposal preparation day: online event
Leading up to the ALMA Cycle 8 proposal submission deadline, Allegro will be hosting a Proposal Preparation Day on the 26th of March. The Allegro staff will present the new ALMA capabilities in Cycle 8 and discuss various techniques that help make your proposals stand out. You will have the opportunity to bring in your proposals and we will assist you with technical aspects and help you explore the feasibility of your project. There will be time allocated for you to work on your proposals while we will be available to answer your questions and provide tips and tricks. A detailed schedule will be provided soon.
The workshop will move to a fully online format, since no on-site meetings are allowed at Leiden University for the time being. You can register for the Proposal Preparation Day at the following link. Additionally, you can always e-mail us. More information can be found here.
Online Proposal Preparation Support by the German ARC node
As a service to the local astronomical community, the German ARC node offers a series of ALMA proposal preparation tutorials as well as remote support sessions using zoom, which the participants can join from a variety of platforms. The video tutorials can be watched at any convenient time after the Call for Proposal has been issued. The tutorials cater to astronomers with different levels of expertise, from introductory videos for scientists new to ALMA to a concise update for experienced ALMA users.
Prospective ALMA users are very welcome to follow up the tutorials with one-on-one discussions during our online drop-in proposal clinic. During the office hours of the proposal clinic, experienced staff of the German ARC node will be available in a zoom videocon session, which the participants can join using the browser of their choice. Zoom offers screen sharing capabilites for all users allowing optimum interaction over large distances. If you would like to talk to an ALMA expert, but can not join the zoom session during the scheduled office hours, please send an email for a special appointment.
Training Opportunity: Hands-on Radio Interferometry by the German ARC node
The Master-level course "Radio Interferometry: Methods and Science" offers hands-on training in the data reduction and analysis of radio interferometric data for Master students, PhD students and more senior astronomers. After a brief review of the basic concepts of radio interferometry, the participants are guided through the various steps necessary to create fully calibrated data cubes from interferometric raw data. In the second part of the course, the participants learn how to construct images and data cubes from the calibrated data and how to analyze their interferometric data.
As in previous years, we plan to offer remote access to the course using the video conferencing system zoom, which the participants can join without charge and on a variety of platforms. If you would like to follow the course remotely, please contact us by Friday, 03 April 2020.
The European ALMA Regional Centre (EU ARC) offers support to a large community of researchers hosted by European institutions. The support is offered to the ALMA user community through seven ARC Nodes and a Centre of Expertise which are spread across Europe, as well as the central ARC which is at ESO. The aim of this Special Session during the annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society is to bring together European ALMA users and the researchers providing support at the different EU ARC Nodes. This is a great opportunity for current and future users of ALMA to discuss new scientific results, observation and data reduction strategies, foster collaborations, and brainstorm on development and implementation of software from the user community. Additionally, it offers the opportunity to identify the need for new capabilities, some of which could be implemented in the near future, such as data combination from different array configurations, pipeline products delivery, and archive mining. More information can be found at the splinter session webpage. Registration to attend this special session is still possible.
The 50th Young European Radio Astronomers Conference (YERAC) will be held in Grenoble, France, from August 18-21 2020, and hosted by IRAM. The purpose of YERAC is for undergraduate, graduate and young post-doctoral students in all radio astronomy disciplines to meet each other and present their work. Participation is by recommendation, supervisors are invited to nominate their students and provide a supporting letter. YERAC is supported by RadioNet. There is no registration fee and accommodation and lunch will be provided free of charge to successful applicants.
More information and registration will be available soon on this webpage (under construction).
The 1st Dustbusters Summer School is open to PhD students and early-stage post-docs who are interested in learning about ALMA observations and hydrodynamical simulations of planet-forming disks. The organizers envisage a lively program, including passionate lessons, hands-on session and presentations from selected students. The school will be hosted in the wonderful setting of Cefalù, in Sicily and it will take place between August 31 and September 4 2020. More information can be found at the summer school webpage.
The 7th Chile-Cologne-Bonn-Symposium (in series of the former Zermatt-Cologne-Bonn-Symposia) Physics and Chemistry of Star Formation; The Dynamical ISM Across Time and Spatial Scales continues the series of symposia on the physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium (ISM) which is held on a roughly 5 year cycle since 1988.
Following the long-term tradition of the former Zermatt Symposia on the Interstellar Medium, we will stay with the concept of a broad topical range, addressing all aspects from the large scales in time and space, i.e., the cosmological evolution of galaxies driven by star formation, down to the details of star formation in individual, local regions and to the micro-physics of molecule formation and excitation. The Symposium thus will cover the development of this research field as a whole over the last 5 years in review talks, and the recent topical results in selected contributed talks.