NRAO eNews
Volume 11, Issue 7
12 July 2018

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NRAO eNews

Volume 11, Issue 7 12 July 2018

Upcoming Events

IAU Division B: New Results in Radio Astronomy
Aug 24, 2018 | Vienna, Austria

NRAO/LBO Community Days at INAOE-Puebla
Sep 13 - 14, 2018 | Puebla, Mexico

TORUS 2018: The Many Faces of AGN Obscuration
Dec 10 - 14, 2018 | Puerto Varas, Chile

National Radio Astronomy Meeting
Jan 9 - 12, 2019 | Boulder, CO

New Horizons in Planetary Systems
May 13 - 17, 2019 | Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

NRAO 2019A Call for Proposals

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The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) invites scientists to participate in the Semester 2019A Call for Proposals for the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA)

The submission deadline for Semester 2019A proposals is Wednesday, 1 August 2018, at 17:00 EDT (21:00 UTC). 

The NRAO especially wishes to highlight a new opportunity with the XMM-Newton Telescope and continuing opportunities for joint observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission.

Proposal preparation and submission are handled via the NRAO Proposal Submission Tool (PST) available at NRAO Interactive Services. Proposers who need assistance with proposal preparation or have questions regarding the Call for Proposals or NRAO telescope capabilities should contact Observatory staff via the NRAO Helpdesk. Note that using these tools (both the PST and the Helpdesk) requires registration.

GBO 2019A Call for Proposals

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The Green Bank Observatory invites scientists to participate in the 2019A Semester Call for Proposals for the Green Bank Telescope (GBT).  The entire proposal call can be found on this page. 

The submission deadline for Semester 2019A proposals is Wednesday, 1 August 2018, at 17:00 EDT (21:00 UTC).

We wish to remind proposers of continuing opportunities for joint observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.  There is also a new opportunity for joint observations with XMM-Newton.

Proposal preparation and submission remain via the NRAO Proposal Submission Tool (PST) available at NRAO Interactive Services. Note that use of the PST requires registration.  Proposers who need assistance with proposal preparation or have questions regarding the Call or GBT capabilities should contact Observatory staff via the Helpdesk.

LBO 2019A Call for Proposals

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The Long Baseline Observatory (LBO) invites scientists to participate in the Semester 2019A Call for the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA).

The submission deadline for Semester 2019A proposals is Wednesday, 1 August 2018, at 17:00 EDT (21:00 UTC).

The LBO especially wishes to highlight continuing opportunities for joint observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, XMM-Newton, and the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission.

Proposal preparation and submission are via the NRAO Proposal Submission Tool (PST) available at NRAO Interactive Services. Note that PST use requires registration. Proposers who need assistance with proposal preparation or have questions regarding the Call or NRAO telescope capabilities should contact Observatory staff via the NRAO Helpdesk.

Semester 2018B Proposal Outcomes

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The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) has completed the Semester 2018B proposal review and time allocation process for the Very Large Array (VLA). A total of 149 new proposals were received for the 1 February 2018 submission deadline. The oversubscription rate (by proposal number) was 2.5 and the proposal pressure (hours requested over hours available) was 2.2 – only the C configuration was offered in Semester 2018B. This pressure is higher than has been reported for recent semesters – the difference results from the discovery that some proposals were being neglected in calculating the VLA proposal pressure. Correcting this omission indicates that the long-term average proposal pressure for the VLA is between 2 and 3. One large and 20 time-critical (triggered) proposals were received. There was significant demand for the time made available on space observatories through inter-observatory agreements, and nine proposals requesting time on the Hubble Space Telescope, Swift or Chandra (together with Associated Universities, Inc./NRAO telescope time) were submitted.

The proposals were reviewed for scientific merit by eight Science Review Panels (SRPs) and for technical feasibility by NRAO staff. These reviews were completed in February – March 2018 and then considered by the Time Allocation Committee (TAC) at a face-to-face meeting on 1-2 May 2018 at the Charlottesville office of NRAO. The TAC – comprising the eight SRP chairs – was charged with recommending a science program for Semester 2018B to the Observatory Director. The recommended program was reviewed and approved on 14 May 2018. (Proposals submitted to the Green Bank Observatory and Long Baseline Observatory were assessed through the same process.)

A disposition letter was sent to the Principal Investigator and Co-Investigators of each proposal on 30 May 2018 and a TAC report containing information for proposers and observers, including statistics and telescope pressure plots, was released the same day. The approved science program for the VLA has been posted to the NRAO science website. The authors, title, abstract, and scheduled hours for each approved proposal can be accessed from the Proposal Finder Tool.

The Student Observing Support program continues to be available for NRAO observing programs and we encourage Principal Investigators of highly ranked VLA proposals to consider applying for support.

The NRAO welcomes community feedback on the proposal review and time allocation process. Please provide such feedback via the Proposal Review department of the NRAO Helpdesk.

X-Proposal Expression of Interest Announcement

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The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), Long Baseline Observatory (LBO), and Green Bank Observatory (GBO) invite submission of brief Expressions of Interest (EoIs) in Principal Investigator-led "eXtra Large Proposals" (X-Proposals) for the Very Large Array (VLA), Very Long Baseline Array, and Green Bank Telescope requiring 1000 hours or more of telescope time, and running over multiple semesters (and possibly multiple VLA configurations).

Responses will be used to gauge the level of community interest in such proposals, and their scientific potential. NRAO, GBO, and LBO will seek advice from their advisory committees and the joint Time Allocation Committee on the EoIs submitted. It is important to note that the observatories may not proceed to a Call for X-Proposals if, for example, there is judged to be insufficient community interest, scientific merit, or differentiation from Large Proposals.

The deadline for submissions is 31 August 2018.

ngVLA Program News

Draft ngVLA Science Book Released

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We are happy to announce the release of the draft ngVLA Science Book. With 50 refereed contributions by ~ 200 unique authors, and 10+ chapters still in preparation, this volume highlights key areas of astrophysics that are ripe for major breakthroughs and underscores the broad U.S. and international support for pursuing a next-generation Very Large Array (ngVLA).

The science book contributions will be accepted by our Science Advisory Council until 1 September in the hope that community members will consider authoring additional chapters, especially for areas not in the current draft. Instructions for submitting chapters are online.

The deadline for accepting submissions will allow for time for formal publication via the Astronomical Society of the Pacific monograph series, with copies in-hand for the January 2019 American Astronomical Society meeting. This deadline also ensures that the book and individual chapters will be listed in the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System for maximum visibility to the Astro 2020 panel members. All first-authors will receive a complimentary copy.

While this published volume will serve as a critical snapshot for the ngVLA project status and a vision for the ngVLA transformational science, we envisage the science book as a “living” document that will be periodically updated until the initiation of construction.

Astrophysical Frontiers in the Next Decade and Beyond: 26-29 June 2018

Peter Teuben

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This ambitious, recently held conference brought a broad cross-section of the astronomy community to Portland, Oregon to discuss the most pressing astrophysical questions as preparation for the Astro 2020 Decadal Review process. With 200+ registrants, including 70+ students, the meeting showcased strong community support from current and next-generation users to pursue cutting-edge space and ground-based facilities to tackle the most pressing questions in astrophysics, with a special emphasis on the ngVLA.

The science program included invited plenary speakers and parallel sessions of invited and contributed presentations covering: (a) Origins of Exoplanets and Protoplanetary Disks; (b) Mechanisms of Galaxy Evolution; and (c) Black Holes and Transient Phenomena. These science areas are multi-wavelength and multi-messenger. Conference talks and posters are being posted to the meeting website as they are received.

Given the positive feedback received, coupled with the enormous participant enthusiasm, especially during discussions in the breakout sessions, plans are already being made for a comparable cross-discipline/wavelength conference in 2020.

Theoretical Advances Guided by Radio-Millimeter-Submillimeter Arrays: January 2019

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The NRAO will convene a Special Session at the January 2019 American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting entitled Theoretical Advances Guided by Radio-Millimeter-Submillimeter Arrays (exact date/time TBD).

Over the last decade, theoretical frontiers have opened on numerous scientific fronts based on high quality radio and millimeter data delivered by the VLA and ALMA. Sensitive images acquired with high angular resolution are enabling new observational insights into star and planet formation that are propagating into improved theoretical understanding. Deep inventories of the molecular gas in galaxies less than a billion years after the Big Bang, e.g., have added substantial realism to galaxy formation models. At the dawn of multi-messenger astrophysics, radio-wavelength follow-up of gravitational wave sources is providing critical insights into the energetics and evolution of these highly explosive events. Extreme astrophysical settings have been identified where fundamental physics can be readily tested.

This Special Session will highlight recent theoretical breakthroughs enabled by the VLA and ALMA, summarize planned VLA and ALMA improvements, discuss theoretical leaps that are likely to follow, and underscore the relevance of the VLA and ALMA to the science themes motivating the great observatories that will be commissioned in the next decade. This Special Session will feature a session of invited oral presentations and an associated poster session with contributed presentations.

The confirmed speakers include: Tony Beasley (NRAO), Roger Blandford (Stanford), Luca Ricci (California State Northridge/JPL), Ilse Cleeves (University of Virginia), Claudia Lagos (University of Western Australia), and Davide Lazzati (Oregon State University).

We encourage you to consider contributing to the associated AAS meeting poster session. We especially seek posters that will foster a robust dialog between theorists and observers, within the context of data from either current or improved arrays. When submitting a contributed poster abstract to the AAS, you will have the option of requesting that your presentation be included in this Special Session.

We look forward to seeing you at the January 2019 AAS!

ALMA Program News

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ALMA Cycle 6
The 146 Science Assessors of the Cycle 6 ALMA Proposal Review met in Tokyo 18-21 June 2018 to assess and advise on the 1838 proposals for 4000 hours of observing time offered on the 12-m Array, and 3000 hours on the Atacama Compact Array (ACA). The Joint ALMA Observatory will send notification emails and consensus reports to Principal Investigators in late July.

The array has transitioned to the most compact C43-1 configuration, which yields a 3.4 arcsec beam at 100 GHz using 15m to 161m baselines. Array elements are then planned to move outward in an expanding array cycle beginning in July, returning to C43-2 – 2.3 arcsec 100 GHz beam, 15m to 314m baselines – late in July continuing expansion to C43-5 by 30 September, at the end of Cycle 5.

Mars is experiencing a global dust storm. The ALMA Director has decided to use Discretionary Time on the ACA to monitor the evolution of CO and H2O in the Martian atmosphere, on a timescale of weeks and on a global scale, during the current dust storm. The program will monitor 12/13CO in ALMA Band 6 and H2O/HDO in Band 7, with a goal of one observation per week until mid-September. The data will be released with no proprietary period in a manner to be described later.

New Horizons in Planetary Systems: 13-17 May 2019
NRC Herzberg and NRAO are jointly organizing – as part of their roles within the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC) – a science conference entitled New Horizons in Planetary Systems to be held 13-17 May 2019 in downtown Victoria, British Columbia. The meeting is planned to have a broad scope, including planetary systems in formation within protoplanetary disks, minor objects in the solar system, debris disks and exoplanets. Experts will be asked to provide insights from all these fields to enhance our understanding of how planets form and evolve. Although it is organized by the NAASC, the meeting is not ALMA-centric, with a strong focus on the impact of the New Horizons mission flyby of a Kuiper Belt Object in January 2019, as well as experts from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and other facilities, who will be asked to provide a multi-chromatic picture of the current understanding in their fields. Invited speakers have been asked to provide broadly accessible talks. Confirmed invited speakers include:

  • Brett Gladman (UBC): theory of planet formation
  • Grant Kennedy (Warwick): debris disk constraints on planet formation
  • Heather Knutson (Caltech): exoplanet atmospheric composition
  • Emmanuel Lellouch (Obs de Paris): solar system objects, constraints on formation
  • Karin Öberg (Harvard): protoplanetary disk composition and chemistry
  • John Spencer (SWRI): New Horizons KBO flyby: first results
  • Diana Dragomir (MIT Kavli Institute): TESS early results
  • Zhaohuan Zhu (UNLV): Protoplanetary disk composition/chemistry

We will also host a public talk on New Horizons by Deputy Mission Scientist Kelsi Singer (SWRI). Pre-registration is now open. Registration and abstract submission will open in October 2018. For more information, contact LOC Chair Brenda Matthews.

TORUS 2018: 10-14 December 2018
Registration is now open for TORUS 2018: The Many Faces of AGN Obscuration, which will take place in Puerto Varas, Chile, 10-14 December 2018. For the past 30 years, a toroidal structure in the equatorial plane around active galactic nuclei (AGN), the so-called dusty and molecular torus, has been considered a cornerstone of unified schemes of quasars and Seyfert galaxies. However, this picture has recently been challenged by observations across the electromagnetic spectrum.

The first ALMA observations have led to contradicting interpretations: either the molecular gas emission is indeed dominated by a rotating torus structure, or it is dominated by outflows, which would be more compatible with the elongated dust shapes seen in the infrared. Together with a dramatic increase in computational power, these observations have triggered a renaissance in modeling of the nuclear material. For the first-time models try to not only explain the SEDs but also the spatial distribution of the dusty and molecular material. Further observational results are expected to revolutionize this picture in the coming years through the increased spatial resolution and sensitivity of ALMA and the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as the new generation of high-resolution X-ray spectrometers, such as the X-Ray Astronomy Recovery Mission.

AtLAST Science Workshop: 18-21 September 2018
A dedicated Atacama Large Aperture Submm/mm Telescope (AtLAST) science workshop will be held at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, Scotland on 18-21 September 2018. The goals of this workshop are for scientific sub-groups to bring together their ideas and focus them into both key science drivers for the telescope and lists of important science cases that cannot be accomplished with current and currently planned sub-millimeter telescopes.

ALMA Development Roadmap

ALMA will sustain its cutting-edge transformational science through 2030 via an aggressive series of upgrades, guided by the ALMA Development Roadmap, recently approved in summary by the ALMA Board and released by the ALMA Director, Sean Dougherty and ALMA Board Chair, Toshikazu Onishi. The Roadmap, achieved through community consultation, is in turn guided by fundamental science drivers for ALMA developments over the next decade, as described below.

Origins of Galaxies
Trace the cosmic evolution of key elements from the first galaxies (z > 10) through the peak of star formation (z = 2 – 4) by detecting their cooling lines, both atomic ([CII], [OIII]) and molecular (CO), and dust continuum, at a rate of 1-2 galaxies per hour.

Origins of Chemical Complexity
Trace the evolution from simple to complex organic molecules through the process of star and planet formation down to solar system scales (~10 – 100 AU) by performing full-band frequency scans at a rate of 2 – 4 protostars per day.

Origins of Planets
Image protoplanetary disks in nearby (150 pc) star formation regions to resolve the Earth forming zone (~ 1 AU) in the dust continuum at wavelengths shorter than 1mm, enabling detection of the tidal gaps and inner holes created by planets undergoing formation.

According to the vision in the Board-approved Roadmap, the current development priorities as based on scientific merit and technical feasibility, are:

  • broaden the receiver IF bandwidth by at least a factor of two; and
  • upgrade the associated electronics and correlator.

NRAO leads the recently-approved Correlator Upgrade Project, a North American project that is the first step along the Roadmap.

In order of scientific priority, receiver upgrades are recommended for intermediate (200 – 425 GHz), low (< 200 GHz), and high (> 425 GHz) frequencies. NRAO built the widest IF band receiver currently available on ALMA, the 211 – 280 GHz Band 6. Development Studies to result in upgrades are being pursued.

SRDP Project Scientist

John Tobin

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I am pleased to announce that Dr. John Tobin has been appointed to the role of Project Scientist for the Science Ready Data Products (SRDP) project. John will located at the Edgemont road office in Charlottesville and begins 21 August 2018.

As the project scientist, John will be responsible for leading the SRDP heuristics team in developing and validating the requirements for the SRDP project. John will work closely with scientists from both the North American ALMA Science Center and the New Mexico Array Science Center to ensure that the SRDP project delivers useful, science quality products, and an archive interface that maximizes the science impact of NRAOs telescopes. Additionally, John will work with the User Support groups to educate the community about the properties of the science ready data products produced at NRAO. John will be the primary contact point between the NRAO SRDP Project and the broad community of users of NRAO’s telescopes.

John comes to NRAO from the University of Oklahoma where he was the Homer L. Dodge Assistant Professor. Previously, John was a Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research Veni Fellow (at Leiden Observatory) and a Hubble Fellow, during which he was resident at the NRAO in Charlottesville. John received his Ph.D. in 2011 from the University of Michigan where he studied the morphology and kinematics of protostellar envelopes with Lee Hartmann and Edwin Bergin. John has recently served on the NRAO Users Committee and is an experienced observer on the ALMA and VLA telescopes.

Please join me in welcoming John back to NRAO.

Career Opportunities

ALMA System Astronomer: The NRAO invites applications for a system astronomer to be part of the Joint ALMA Observatory’s (JAO) Department of Science Operations (DSO). ALMA system astronomers are the experts on the ALMA observatory and its performance and provide advice and assistance to ALMA operations. They work closely with the ALMA Regional Centers, the system engineers in the ALMA Department of Engineering, and the staff in the ALMA Department of Computing. The System Astronomers also contribute to science operations as Astronomers On Duty, and participate in tests and evaluation of the ALMA software systems relevant to operations.

From the Archives

From the Archives

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About this month's photo: In 1995 Grote Reber donated materials to NRAO: 95 packing crates shipped to Green Bank. Reber came for a month to help, and he and several NRAO staff members opened crates and sorted materials in May – June 1995. Much of what Reber sent was old radio and electronic equipment, but the shipment also included ~100 linear feet of documents: correspondence, drawings, antenna construction records, reports, photographs, notes and papers, research materials. Reber’s papers were transferred to the Archives in 2003, and a gift from the Reber estate funded their processing and allowed us to scan most of the material. See the Finding Aid to the Papers of Grote Reber.

Reber had been a radio ham, and his call sign, W9GFZ, is now held by the NRAO Amateur Radio Club. In this photo, taken 14 June 1995, Reber is with NRAO ham operators in front of the Reber antenna in Green Bank. [Left to right]: Mike Balister (WBZJO), Bill Lakatosh (AA4TJ in 1995, now W4TJ), Dave Brown (AD4GK), Rich Bradley (WB3DZC), Grote Reber, Hein Hvatum (N4FWA), Jim Condon (AD4YM), Ken Kellermann (K2AOE), Fred Schwab (W4OZJ). Thanks to Mike Balister for bringing the photo to our attention, and to others in the photo for providing call signs.

From the Archives is an ongoing series illustrating NRAO and U.S. radio astronomy history via images selected from our collections of individuals' and institutional papers. If readers have images they believe would be of interest to the Archives, please contact Ellen Bouton.

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