ALMA Update

1  Recent news

1.1  Construction Progress

On 2007 March 10, a ceremony was held at the Operations Support Facility (OSF) to celebrate the completion of the roof structure on the OSF technical facility building. Held in the nascent OSF warehouse, the crowd of workers and others hear speeches from, among others, the Mayor of San Pedro de Atacama, Sandra Berna. The facility, which will host about 100 people during operations, consists of three main buildings: the technical building, hosting the control centre of the observatory; the antenna assembly building, including four antenna foundations for testing and maintenance purposes; and the warehouse building, including mechanical workshops. The building is slated for completion by January 2008.
The major pieces of the first ALMA production antenna have arrived at the OSF and the antenna is under construction. This is the first major ALMA hardware to arrive in Chile.
Figure 1: The first ALMA production antenna at the Operations Support Facility (11,000 ft elevation) near San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. Photo was taken 14 May 2007.
With routine delivery of receivers to the Front End Integration Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, the instrumentation teams have learned a great deal about the capabilities these instruments will have through the production run, during which time one receiver will need to be produced about every month. There are a few change requests for the receivers underway but none with significant changes to the capabilities of ALMA. It appears that most of the receiver technology has achieved the stringent goals of the ALMA project.
Internet connections have been established to the technical building at the Array Operations Site (5000 m elevation). Holography and optical pointing tests are continuing with the two ALMA prototype antennas at the VLA site. Leonardo Testi has been appointed as the new European ALMA project scientist. Both the new offline software (CASA) and the ALMA pipeline have recently completed a round of user tests. A new version of the Design Reference Science Plan that includes the new receiver capabilities being contributed by Japan is nearing completion and will be available starting 22 June 2007. The DRSP can be found at

2  ALMA Meetings

2.1  ALMA Science Advisory Committee

Doug Johnstone attended his first ASAC meeting this May in Tokyo, Japan. The two day meeting consisted of many presentations on the construction and operations of ALMA, reports from each of the regional science advisory committees (Europe, North America, and East Asia), as well as a very impressive tour of the ALMA technology labs at NAOJ. In addition, the ASAC took up the task of responding to four detailed charges from the ALMA Board: consideration of the Design Reference Science Plan (DRSP) 2.0; combined operations of ALMA and the Compact Array; the need for molecular line databases; and the desire for a comprehensive and coordinated Education and Public Outreach plan. Some key points from the discussions are summarized below; the final report itself should be available on the ALMA web site in early July.
Figure 2: ASAC members checking out the development of ALMA Band 10 mixers (950 GHz or 350 microns) at NAOJ in Japan.

Considering the charges to the ASAC, the DRSP 2.0 showed that all projects planned for the baseline ALMA (DRSP 1.0) are still possible with the rebaselined array, although at a cost in time and/or sample size. There is a significant desire for Compact Array measurements to supplement the main array, with around a third of the projects requesting these observations. It remains to be seen how many require the observations to be taken simultaneously. Much work has progressed toward planning for a combined use of ALMA with the Compact Array and it is clear that, when possible, such observations would be of great benefit to programs requiring detail across many spatial scales. Further testing of simulations, however, is needed to determine if there is a rule of thumb for observing strategy. As well, while combined array use is possible, there will be a requirement for separate observations as well and continued effort at optimizing such image reconstructions is ongoing.
ALMA, along with Herschel and SOFIA, will be strongly affected by the severe lack of molecular line identifications for less abundant species, such as methanol (and its isotopomers). It is clear that such measurements require detailed laboratory work and that such research is not extremely urgent for most molecular spectroscopists. A coordinated plan to find funds to purchase this information is most likely the necessary approach, including allowing ALMA development funds to be available for such research.
Finally, it is exciting to note that the ALMA Project is considering carefully the task of Education and Public Outreach. For a multinational project, however, the perfect approach is unclear and much work remains to be completed to define the appropriate role of the various institutions, nations, and Executives. This work is being addressed at present through the leadership and coordination of an ALMA Working Group studying EPO. As a member of the ASAC, Doug Johnstone has agreed to observe this group.

2.2  Canadian ALMA Science Advisory Committee

The Canadian ALMA Science Advisory Committee (formerly known as the Canadian ALMA Science Steering Committee, an unpronounceable acronym), met at Queen's University June 3-4, 2007. Current committee members are Stephane Courteau, James Di Francesco, Mike Fich, Doug Johnstone, Douglas Scott, Chris Wilson, and T. Webb. The main focus of the meeting was to discuss various options for ALMA operations, outreach to the Canadian community, and the recent meeting of the ASAC. The committee also heard reports on the status of ALMA construction and the Canadian contributions to ALMA construction. Since the report has not yet been finalized, I will give a more detailed summary of our discussions in my next update.

2.3  Upcoming Science Meetings

In Canada, we are organizing an ALMA workshop to be held in Calgary May 26-27, 2008 (after the CASCA meeting in Victoria). The title of the meeting is "Observing with ALMA" and the focus will be on the science to be done with ALMA and on becoming familiar with the software tools that ALMA PIs will need to use. The workshop is limited to 50 people, and the first 20 students to register will get substantial travel support. Registration opens in January 2007, but I encourage you to sign up to the email list as soon as possible if you are interested in this meeting. More information is available at.

NRAO is holding a science workshop on "Transformational Science with ALMA: Through Disks to Stars and Planets"

in Charlottesville, Virginia June 22-24, 2007. The ANASAC is beginning to discuss possible topics for scientific workshops in 2008. If anyone has any suggestions for future workshop topics, please pass them on to Doug Johnstone or Chris Wilson, who are the two Canadian members of the ANASAC.

3  ALMA Developments in Canada

3.1  Band 3 Receiver Development

The Band 3 Receiver Development Team is on pace to complete the eight pre-production phase receivers by the end of 2007. Three cartridges have already been sent to the Front End Integration Center in Charlottesville, and a further three are nearing completion. The team is performing a series of tests on the receivers to determine important characteristics such as gain compression, beam profile, and vibration modes.  
Figure 3: Four ALMA Band 3 receiver cartridges that are under construction at HIA.


The next major milestone for the team will be the Critical Design Review planned for late September, which will finalize the Band 3 design before entering the production phase.  Later in the year, a Manufacturing Readiness Review will be scheduled to examine the plan for the production phase of receiver assembly, with one cartridge being produced each month! The team is preparing for these   events by finalizing the schedule and production model, determining the relevant industrial partnerships, and considering any changes  that may be necessary to achieve steady production. 
Additionally, the Receiver Team has been contacted by both CARMA and ARO to provide mixers for their own telescopes. It appears that the hard work and significant expertise that has accumulated at NRC-HIA is being well recognized within the larger international astronomical community.
For more information on the ALMA Band 3 Receiver Project contact Keith  Yeung (Project Manager,, Stephane Claude (Project Engineer,, or Doug Johnstone (Project Scientist,

3.2  Software

Software development work in Canada continues at HIA and the University of Calgary. Since the previous report, Raymond Rusk has continued to spend some time working on the User Reference Manual converting Glish examples for the quanta, measures, coordsys and image tools to "live" Python code. He has also converted the image and coordsys assay tests, which are used for integration and unit testing, from Glish to Python. A framework for assay testing of casapy hasn't been defined yet, so this work is groundbreaking in the area of assay tests. Following this work, which is needed for the CASA Sept 2007 Beta release, he will refocus on tasks that add new functionality to CASA in the area of image analysis task development.
Shannon Jaeger has continued to work on MSPlot. In early June, she visited Socorro to meet with the NAUG members to discuss changes needed on the plotter and completed handling of plotting of spectral windows with different sized data and added in time averaging. Also while in Socorro, she initiated work on supporting source detection in CASA with image fitting.
Arne Grimstrup is settling in to his work on ACS in Calgary. After training at ESO, he has assumed responsibility for the maintenance and continued development of the ACS Python APIs, Notification Service, Event Browser, and support for the American ALMA teams. He also contributes to the maintenance of other ACS subsystems as directed by the ACS Team Leader. Recently he has been involved with ACS/CASA integration issues. The big news in the areas of ACS software development is that Gianluca Chiozzi, ACS Team Leader, is moving to a new role as the Head of the Control Software Department at ESO. Joe Schwartz will become the new ACS team leader at the end of June and Arne Grimstrup will then report to Joe.
Chris Wilson spent a week in Socorro working on VLA data and took the opportunity to run some new data through the ALMA pipeline script. The script performed very well on the VLA data and a detailed comparison between the pipeline results and images produced by hand showed very good agreement. She also finished the report from the pipeline user test which was held this winter and submitted it to the project. The pipeline team is now preparing for their first test of the reduction heuristics for single dish ALMA data, which is expected to be held later this summer.
Chris Wilson
Canadian ALMA Project Scientist
(with input from Arne Grimstrup, Shannon Jaeger, Doug Johnstone, and Raymond Rusk as well as material from Al Wootten)

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On 21 Jun 2007, 21:02.