ALMA Update

1  Recent news

1.1  Construction Progress

The first astronomical detection by an ALMA production antenna on an ALMA Chile site has been obtained at the Operations Support Facility (OSF) using a cryogenic receiver system from NAOJ. This image of the moon at a wavelength of 2 mm (140 GHz) was obtained with one of the three 12 m diameter Melco antennas. The image clearly shows the temperature distribution of the moon, including weak radio emission from the dark side of the moon.
Figure 1: First radio image of the moon taken with an ACA antenna. Left: Optical image taken with a digital camera. Right: Radio image at a wavelength of 2 mm taken with an ACA antenna. The optical image shows the sunlight reflected by the moon's surface, whereas the radio image shows the physical temperature distribution of the moon.
The first interferometric spectrum has been obtained at the ALMA Test Facility in New Mexico. Todd Hunter, Robert Laing and ALMA operators Hector Alarcon and Roberto Aviles obtained a spectrum of the Orion Hot Core centered on the CS(2-1) line at 98 GHz on 19 January 2008. With routine interferometry continuing on continuum sources, acquisition of a molecular line spectrum was the next step. It was achieved the first time it was tried.


Figure 2: The first interferometric spectrum obtained with ALMA proto-type antennas at the ALMA Test Facility using the evaluation front-end receivers and production back-end equipment. Blanked channels are seen as missing data.


With construction of the Technical Building complete, the ACA correlator installed, and the transporter hangar nearing completion, activity at the Array Operations Site (AOS) has shifted to construction of antenna pads. The first six to be constructed will be pads 104, 136, 109, 96, 101 and 106, which lie along Road 11 near the Technical Building. Test borings are occurring at other pad sites.
The OSF construction is essentially complete and the crews have left the site; some "punch list" items remain. There are about 300 persons on the site, the management of which has transitioned from construction to operations.
Heavy rains (associated with the "Bolivian Winter") undercut a portion of the Calama-San Pedro highway through the Cordillera del Sal. However the ALMA antenna transporters, which arrived in port in Mejillones on 6 Feb 2008, were able to negotiate the road; they were delivered to the site 13 Feb 2008.
The first phases of acceptance for the first Vertex antenna have begun. Construction of the fourth Melco antenna is well along. Antenna foundations have been built at the AEM antenna contractor laydown area. An optical pointing telescope was installed on ACA 12m antenna No 2 and a pointing model established. Main reflector panels are being installed on ACA 12m antenna No 4.

1.2  Personnel news

On January 17, 2008, Richard Wade, Chair of the ALMA Board, announced that Professor Thijs de Graauw (SRON and Leiden University, Netherlands) has agreed to accept the position of ALMA Interim Director, effective April 1, 2008. Thijs is a world expert in (sub)millimetre astronomy, with excellent instrumental credentials, and substantial experience in coordinating large international projects.
The Board has formed a search committee for a new Director; Chris Wilson is a member of the search committee. The committee has met three times via telecon and will be working actively to identify suitable candidates and encourage them to apply. If you have suggestions for people to approach for this key position, please let Chris know as soon as possible.
For personal reasons linked to the education of their children, Dr. Tony Beasley will leave ALMA in June to assume the Directorship of the NEON Project in Colorado. Tony's contributions as Project Manager, which have enabled the realization of this transformational instrument for the greater exploration of the universe, are deeply appreciated, by the ALMA Board, associated agencies and executives, and by astronomers worldwide. We wish him well in his new endeavors.
The Board has formed a search committee for a new Project Manager, upon which Jim Hesser is serving, and which aims to work intensely on finding a replacement. An advertisement will be issued via the AAS Job Register on April 1. If you have suggestions for people to approach for this key position, please share the names with Jim as soon as possible and point them to the vacancy.
Hans Rykaczewski's current term as ESO ALMA Division Head and European Project Manager will end June 30, 2008 and he has decided not to continue in this role. All of us in ALMA appreciate the work Hans has put into managing the European side of the project. Dr. Richard Kurz, European Project Manager for ALMA from 1999 to early 2004, will return to ESO/ALMA in an interim role beginning February 1, 2008.
Chris Carilli will move to new position at NRAO as Observatory Chief Scientist as soon as his replacement as the head of the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC) is in place. An open search for a new head of the NAASC is being headed by Paul van den Bout and the vacancy notice is posted.

2  ALMA Meetings

2.1  ALMA Science Advisory Committee (ASAC)

The ALMA Science Advisory Committee (ASAC) held a face-to-face meeting February 1-2, 2008 in Santiago to consider three charges from the ALMA Board. The first charge was to assess the preparation of the ALMA real time, observing, and off-line software for early science. The second charge was to review the calibration plan and scientific aspects of the plans for assembly, integration, verification, and commissioning. The third charge was to identify scientific themes and chairs for panels to examine the scientific drivers for the long term ALMA Development Plan. The ASAC report has been sent to the ALMA Board but is not yet available publicly; I will discuss the results in my next update.

2.2  Upcoming Science Meetings

ESO is organizing a workshop on "Gas and Stars in Galaxies: A Multi-Wavelength 3D Perspective" to be held June 10-13, 2008 in Garching, Germany

This conference aims to bring together the optical/near-IR and submillimetre/radio communities working on 3-dimensional extragalactic data.
The North American ALMA Science Center will host its third annual science workshop in Charlottesville, Virginia September 25-27, 2008. The subject of this year's workshop is "The Birth and Feedback of Massive Stars, Within and Beyond the Galaxy", a timely theme, given the ability of ALMA's frequency coverage, sensitivity, and resolution to bridge the gap between Galactic and low-redshift extragalactic studies of star formation and feedback.
Key science questions for the workshop include:
More details about the program and logistics can be found at the workshop website  

The organizers encourage students, postdocs, and senior scientists working on relevant theoretical and (at all wavelengths) observational projects to preregister and submit abstracts before the deadline of May 1st. A majority of the program will be selected from contributed abstracts, with a particular focus on the "wish list" of topics that have been prioritized by the organizers and listed on the website under "meeting philosophy".
And finally, just a short reminder that the workshop Öbserving with ALMA" at the University of Calgary has been delayed until summer 2009 by the SOC. Periodic announcements will be made during the upcoming year with new information regarding new dates etc.

3  ALMA Developments in Canada

3.1  Software

Raymond Rusk and Shannon Jaeger attended a CASA developer meeting in late February to help lay out what needs to be done within the CASA project over the next year. The CASA team has been working actively to prepare an update to the CASA beta release, which should be completed any day now. This update was originally planned for February, but was delayed for a few weeks by plotting problems.
The first phase of the implementation of the ALMA Request Handler is complete and was delivered to the ALMA Archive Group on March 18. This first release of the Request Handler will provide functionality to retrieve data via the Internet. After delivery, the archive group at ESO and in Manchester will implement the ALMA specific code necessary to interface the Request Handler to the existing archive infrastructure.
Dustin Jenkins and Adrian Damian have started the second phase of development of the Request Handler. The second phase will add functionality to process data before delivering it to users, and the ability to deliver data on physical media.
The first ALMA Science Archive user test has been completed and the user comments are available to the ALMA Archive group. There were some comments regarding the form and content of the Request Handler web pages which can be easily addressed in the release.
The fifth user test of the ALMA Pipeline was completed February 15. This was the first test to involve automatic processing of the single dish data that is expected from the 12 m antennas in the ACA. Chris Wilson is currently working on the final report summarizing the responses of the three testers, but overall the test went very well.
Chris Wilson
Canadian ALMA Project Scientist
(with input from Lewis Knee, Severin Gaudet, and Jim Hesser, as well as material from Al Wootten)

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.40.
On 21 Mar 2008, 16:17.