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Preparing for ALMA

by Dong-Chan Kim last modified Jun 08, 2011

Preparing for ALMA

Special Session, organized by the North American ALMA Science Center
216th American Astronomical Society Meeting
Miami, Florida
Monday 24 May, 6 - 8 p.m. EDT

ALMAThe Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) will provide an unprecedented combination of sensitivity, angular resolution, spectral resolution, and image fidelity at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, enabling a wide range of transformative research. ALMA will provide observing opportunities at wavelengths from 0.3 mm to 9.6 mm (950 GHz - 31 GHz), a key part of the electromagnetic spectrum, for example, for probing the first stars and galaxies, directly imaging planetary formation, and studying the energy output from supermassive black holes in starburst galaxies.

The first call for ALMA observing proposals is expected in late 2010, while construction continues. This Special Session will describe this Early Science opportunity and the ALMA tools and support available through the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC). Located at the NRAO headquarters in Charlottesville, Virginia, the NAASC staff will provide accurate and timely information on ALMA observing modes and capabilities to the community, support users creating proposals with the ALMA Observing Tool, staff an electronic Help Desk, validate observers' scheduling blocks, and provide post-observation user support.

The special session will include an introduction to the major tools that users will to prepare their observations and analyze their data, including the ALMA Observing Tool (OT) for proposal preparation and submission, the Common Astronomy Software Applications (CASA) package that will be used to reduce ALMA science data and includes an "observing simulator" task, and Splatalogue, an on-line VO-queryable spectral line database.

During Early Science, ALMA is expected to include at least 16 antennas, 4 receiver bands, baselines to 0.25 km, and single field interferometry. A goal is to offer baselines to 1km and single dish mapping of extended objects in continuum and spectral line modes. While Early Science will coexist with array commissioning, a portion of the available time will be allocated for science observations.

Presentation Schedule (Hyatt Regency Miami, Riverfront Hall - South)

Time Title Speaker View/Download
6:00 - 6:30 pm Reception
6:30 - 6:50 pm Community Programs & Support from the NAASC Carol Lonsdale Abstract | PPT | PDF
6:50 - 7:10 pm The Current Status of ALMA Alison Peck Abstract | PPT | PDF
7:10 - 7:30 pm The March to Early Science and Beyond Al Wootten Abstract | PPT | PDF
7:30 - 7:45 pm ALMA from the Users' Perspective Kelsey Johnson Abstract | PPT | PDF
7:45 - 8:00 pm Preparing for ALMA: User Tools Anthony Remijan Abstract | PPT | PDF


Community Programs & Support from the NAASC (Carol Lonsdale)

Little more than a year from now the first ALMA Early Science data will be coming in from this transformational new mm/submm array in Chile. The North American ALMA Science Center, NAASC, is gearing up to support the first North American ALMA observers in the preparation and submission of their proposals and the processing of their data. I will describe the NAASC, its staff and its services, to inspire the first generation of ALMA proposers to begin formulating their proposals.

The Current Status of ALMA (Alison Peck)

The Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an international millimeter/submillimeter interferometer under construction in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of Japan by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). ALMA is situated on a high-altitude site at 5000m elevation which provides excellent atmospheric transmission over most of the wavelength range of 0.3 to 3 mm. At the shortest planned wavelength and most extended configuration, the angular resolution of ALMA will be 5 milliarcseconds. This will give us the ability to, for example, image the gas kinematics in protostars and in protoplanetary disks around young Sun-like stars at a distance of 150 pc, or to image the redshifted dust continuum emission from evolving galaxies at epochs of formation as early as z = 10. At present, there are about 30 scientists from all over the world working at the Joint ALMA Observatory in Santiago, all of whom are assisting with antenna testing and array commissioning activities, as well as carrying out their own research programs. A number of antennas have been delivered and assembled at the Operations Support Facility (OSF) at 3000m near San Pedro de Atacama, and are currently undergoing extensive testing. The first 3 antennas were delivered to the Array Operations Site (AOS) at the end of 2009, and Commissioning and Science Verification began on Jan 22, 2010, following the successful demonstration of phase closure and preliminary observing modes. The call for proposals for Early Science observations is planned to go out within a year, and Early Science observations will begin in 2011.

The March to Early Science and Beyond (Al Wootten)

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array is rapidly proceeding through its commissioning stages in Chile. Within a short time, equipment from all over the world will be installed at the 5050m Array Operations Site and a call will go out for proposals to use the instrument during its 'Early Science' phase. At the beginning of Early Science, a little over a year from now, 16 antennas of the final 66 will stand ready to produce the deepest images ever achieved in the cool thermal spectral region. The array will be equipped with at least three of its eventual complement of ten receivers operating over a decade of bandwidth from 3.6mm to 0.42mm. At this point, its sensitivity will be on the order of 0.5mJy in a minute's integration. Operating at this stage baselines of at least .25km, ALMA will provide a beam as small as 0".3 on the little-explored southern skies from its Chilean site near the Tropic of Capricorn. By one year later, the array will have grown to more than fifty antennas; at the second call for proposals the array will reach 0.2 mJy in a minute and baselines will extend to the full set of array configurations, effectively about 14 km. Observations which will be made possible by these transformative capabilities will be presented.

ALMA from the Users' Perspective (Kelsey Johnson)

After decades of dreaming and preparation, the call for early science with ALMA is just around the corner. The goal of this talk is to illustrate the process of preparing and carrying out a research program with ALMA. This presentation will step through the user interface for proposal preparation, proposal review, project tracking, data acquisition, and post-processing. Examples of the software tools, including the simulator and spectral line catalog, will be included.

Preparing for ALMA: User Tools (Anthony Remijan)

ALMA represents greater than a order of magnitude increase in the sensitivity, spatial and spectral resolution of any current or planned mm/submm interferometer. As such, the way in which observations are planned, calibrated and analyzed need to be different in order to get the most out of an ALMA observation. In this talk, I will present the major tools that users will use to prepare their observations and analyze their data. These tools include the ALMA Observing Tool (OT) for proposal preparation and submission, the Common Astronomy Software Applications (CASA) package that will be used to reduce ALMA science data and includes an "observing simulator" task, and Splatalogue, an on-line VO-queriable spectral line database.