European ARC Newsletter
22 Mar 2016
Whirling Southern Star Trails over ALMA. Picture by Babak Tafreshi

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.

Up-to-date information about weather, configuration and and scheduling can be found on the ALMA Status page

European ARC Announcements

ALMA Cycle 4 Call for Proposals is now open

22 Mar 2016:

The ALMA Director, on behalf of the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) and the partner organizations in East Asia, Europe, and North America, is pleased to announce the ALMA Cycle 4 Call for Proposals (CfP) for scientific observations to be scheduled from October 2016 to September 2017.

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ALMA ARC Postdoc Position: Short Spacings and polarization

02 Mar 2016:

Announcement from the German Node
The German node of the European ALMA Regional Centre (ARC) invites applications for a postdoc position based at Bonn university.

The appointee is expected to support the technical and user support of ALMA, as well as conduct his/her self-defined research (50/50). Depending on his/her expertise, he/she shall work on single-dish integration efforts, including wavelet-based deconvolution tasks, or the development of polarization tools and calibration resources

The deadline for submission is 1 April 2016.

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1-mm Very Long Baseline Interferometry including ALMA

26 Feb 2016:

The call for 1-mm Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) proposals to use phased ALMA at Band 6 in Cycle 4, in collaboration with the Event Horizon Telescope Consortium (EHTC), will be released to coincide with the ALMA Cycle 4 Call for Proposals in March 2016. The EHTC is expected to comprise the Submillimeter Array, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, the Submillimeter Telescope, the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment, the South Pole Telescope, the Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano, the IRAM 30m telescope, and an antenna from the Northern Extended Millimeter Array. 

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ALMA Cycle 4 Information for Large Programs

09 Feb 2016:

As indicated in the Pre-announcement for the Cycle 4 Call for Proposals, the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) will accept proposals for Large Programs for the first time in Cycle 4. An announcement which provides guidelines to prepare a Large Program proposal can now be found on the ALMA Science Portal.

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New ALMA Science Verification Data

18 Jan 2016:

A new installment of Science Verification data is available. This release contains data on the following Science Verification target: IRAS16293-2422 spectral line observations in Band 4 (CH3CN, CH3OH) with the 12-m Array, demonstrating the Band 4 capability.

More information can be found on the ALMA Science Portal

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ALMA and GMVA Observations in Cycle 4

18 Jan 2016:

People interested in proposing VLBI observations with ALMA should be informed that ALMA will participate in some GMVA observations during ALMA Cycle 4 at 3mm wavelengths in the period Oct 1 2016 - Sept 30 2017. More details can be found in the ALMA Cycle 4 Pre-announcement.

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ALMA Programme News

Band 1 Critical Design Review

On 19 and 20 January 2016, the CDR (Critical Design Review) for ALMA Band 1 was held in Taipei (Taiwan). Band 1 is one of the missing bands for ALMA, the other missing bands are Band 2, and Band 5 which is currently being installed at the array. NAOJ and ASIAA have been developing a Band 1 prototype cartridge and called for the CDR with an international review panel, including participation of experts from ESO, SRON and Observatoire de Paris-Meudon, to assess the readiness for series production. The panel was impressed by the achieved progress and indicated areas which would need some attention before embarking on a full scale production.

Natural Gas Pipeline for ALMA

ESO, on behalf of the ALMA partnership, is pursuing the construction of a natural gas pipeline from San Pedro de Atacama to the power generators at the OSF. Currently, the fuel for the ALMA power generators is brought to the OSF by trucks. A pipeline is a safer means of fuel transportation, and natural gas is a relatively clean and cost effective fuel for power generation.

Before being allowed and able to build the 24 km of pipeline, the detailed engineering and an Environmental Impact Study according to Chilean regulations need to be carried out. Both are currently underway.

European Development Projects

ALMA has a very active development programme in the partner regions and at JAO. On the European side, ESO funds the Band 5 full production and integration at OSF, with contributions from NRAO and NAOJ. Receiver cartridge construction is ongoing at GARD (Sweden) and NOVA (Netherlands), and the integration into cryostats and antennas is carried out in Chile. By now, a total of 14 Band 5 receivers have been installed on ALMA antennas and passed the verification process on sky. It is anticipated that Band can be offered for science in Cycle 5.

ESO also co-funded the OSF to Calama Fibre-Optic Connection project, managed by an ESO staff member on secondment to JAO. The connection was technically complete by end of 2014. The system is now used formally in testing mode, but at 100% functionality. Regulatory topics need to be settled by the contractor before routine start of use.

ALMA Upgrade Studies

Following the announcement on the previous Newsletter, we will provide regular updates and information on various developments under study in Europe. This issue we focus on the status of the development of ALMA Band 2-3.

We also would like to draw the attention of the readers to the new Call for ALMA Upgrade Studies that ESO expects to release in May 2016, and to the Submm Instrumentation Development Workshop that will take place in Gothenburg on May 25–27, 2016.

ALMA Band 2/3 Development

The ultimate goal of this development study is the design and production of a wide band receiver cartridge covering both band 2 and 3. This requires, among others, development of suitable optics components and active (amplifier) devices. In Europe, work continues on a cartridge prototype, in a collaborative effort involving ESO, INAF (iALMA project), STFC (RAL and University of Manchester) and University of Chile with contributions from NAOJ.

In the last quarter of 2015, the teams involved in the project assembled a warm testbed for the passive components in the ESO labs and carried out performance characterization tests. The efforts were met with excellent results and different designs of horn and OMT were shown to meet demanding ALMA specifications across the full frequency range 67-116 GHz. Improved prototypes, based on the experience gained in the lab testing, are being produced by INAF and University of Chile and will be tested in the cooled prototype setup that is being assembled.

Figure 1. ALMA Band 2-3 passive components warm testbed at ESO. From right to left: aperture and warm lens, infrared filter and second stage window, horn and OMT assembly, test down converter

After demonstrating the performance of the passive components in the warm environment, the Band 2-3 project is now developing a full cryogenic prototype receiver. The system will include an ALMA compliant downconverter developed at STFC-RAL and Low Noise Amplifiers being designed by the University of Manchester and produced as part of a collaboration with Caltech/JPL.

This new receiver will allow ALMA to address key science in the areas of complex organic molecules and the pre-biotic chemistry of the cold interstellar medium and to study the interstellar medium of galaxies at high redshift (e.g. Beltran et al. 2015, arXiv:1509.02702; and Fuller et al. 2016, arXiv:1602.02414). As an example, in Fig. 2, we show the prediction for the emission of Glycine in cold pre-stellar cores (Jimenez-Serra et al. 2014, ApJ 787, L33).

Figure 2. Predicted Glycine emission from the L1544 cold prestellar core in Taurus. The frequency ranges covered by ALMA Bands 2, 3, 4 and 6 are marked for reference (Jimenez-Serra et al. 2014).

Upcoming ALMA or ALMA-related Meetings

  • German ALMA Community Days 2016
    Bonn, Germany, 6 - 8 April 2016

    The next Call for Proposals for observing time with ALMA (Cycle 4) will be issued in March 2016 with a deadline of 21 April 2016. To prepare the local astronomical community for Cycle 4, the German ARC node organizes the German ALMA Community Days 2016 at the Argelander-Institut für Astronomie in Bonn on 6-8 April 2016.
    Registration is now open! Workshop places will be assigned on a "first come, first served basis".

  • IRAM Science Software User Meeting 2016
    Grenoble, France, 6 – 8 April 2016

    IRAM will organize a science softwareusers meeting from 6 to 8 April 2016. The IRAM Science Software team will present the projects that were developed in the past 5 years and driven by the advent of wide bandwidth, wide-field, high angular resolution data cubes with (sub)-millimeter instruments as NOEMA or the 30-m, but also by ALMA, Herschel, APEX, and SOFIA.

  • ALMA Proposal Preparation Day 2016
    Bologna, Italy, 11 – 12 April 2016

    In preparation to the ALMA Cycle 4 proposal submission deadline of April 21st, the Italian node of the European ARC is organizing an "ALMA proposal preparation day" to support the ALMA users to prepare their proposals. During this meeting we will present short tutorials on the ALMA Observing Tool and on proposal preparation. Most of the time will be dedicated to the interaction of the participants with the ARC staff to get support in preparing their own proposals for ALMA Cycle 4.

  • Radio Interferometry: Methods and Science
    Bonn, Germany,  April – July 2016

    The course "Radio Interferometry: Methods and Science", held in English at the university of Bonn in April-July 2016, offers a hands-on overview of major aspects of radio/mm/submm interferometry for master students, PhD students and senior astronomers. The course also comprises a CASA tutorial.
    We will offer remote access to the lectures and tutorials on a best efforts basis. If you would like to follow the course from a remote location, please contact us before 1 April.

  • Resolving Planet Formation in the Era of ALMA and Extreme AO
    ESO Vitacura, Santiago, Chile, 16 – 20 May 2016

    Results from ALMA Long Baseline observations and from SPHERE, Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) and other high-contrast adaptive optics instruments have given a taste of what to expect over the next few years in the fields of protoplanetary and debris disks, and planet formation. For the first time observations of the regions where planets form are achievable. The workshop will discuss the state-of-the-art results, offering a panchromatic view, with a balance between observations and theory.

  • Discs in Galaxies
    ESO Headquarters, Garching, Germany, 11 – 15 July 2016

    The aim of this conference is to explore the importance of stellar and gaseous discs in a variety of galaxies from high redshift to the Milky Way within the context of new observations and numerical simulations. Stellar and gaseous discs represent the most important structural component in normal galaxies and interpreting their early formation and destruction, via observations and numerical simulations, indicates the key processes that shape the eventual Hubble sequence.
    This conference is timely given the current investment in high resolution instrumentation, which probes the resolved properties of distant galaxies, and the increased detail in our understanding of stars and gas in nearby galaxies and the Milky Way. It will provide a wide ranging exploration of discs in galaxies from observational and theoretical aspects. More details on the webpage.

  • Half a Decade of ALMA: Cosmic Dawns Transformed
    Indian Wells,  USA, 20 –23 September 2016

    This international four-day conference will highlight ALMA results at the threshold of the array's fifth year of science operations and bring together researchers from around the world to motivate collaborations for ALMA Cycle 5. Science topics will include all fields of astronomy, from cosmology and galaxies in the distant Universe, nearby galaxies and the Galactic Center, interstellar medium and star formation in our Galaxy, astrochemistry, circumstellar disks, exoplanets, solar system, stellar evolution, and the Sun.