European ARC Announcements

European ARC Announcements are provided by ESO and the European ALMA Nodes that together make up the European ALMA Regional Centre Network.

ALMA starts the process of recovering the telescope array

Published: 01 Oct 2020

Dear colleagues,

The past several months have been an extraordinary period as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. Everyone at ALMA hopes that you and your families are safe and healthy, and we extend our thoughts to those who have been directly affected by the pandemic.

For six months, almost the whole ALMA site has been shut down – power, water treatment, and running water - with only a single piece of key equipment (the hydrogen maser) still powered and checked daily as one of the tasks of the ALMA Caretaker Teams  - the teams who have ensured the safety and security of the ALMA Observatory through the shutdown.   

With the improving pandemic situation in Chile, ALMA is now scheduled to begin the long process of recovering the telescope array in the Atacama on October 1st, 2020, starting with preparation of the ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF) at 2900 metres for the return of staff and contractors.

The road to recovery of operations, and ultimately science observations – a milestone that will not take place this year - has been carefully planned. It is difficult to predict the exact timeline since several aspects of the plan depend on prevailing conditions not under our control. However, the following describes the current plan of activities and schedule for the return of ALMA to science operations.

ALMA Regional Centre Community Assembly

Published: 01 Oct 2020

The European ALMA Regional Centre invites all European ALMA users to a short virtual community assembly on October 8 at 10:00 CEST. After a long period of suspended science observing, there is now a path towards getting back on sky and collecting science data with ALMA again. At this community meeting, we will update you on the time line for recovery and can answer any questions you may have on your ALMA projects and support from the European ARC network.

Reserve the date: 8 October at 10:00 CEST. The meeting can be accessed at this link. Looking forward to seeing you then!

ALMA is redesigning its user experience - be part of it!

Published: 21 Sep 2020

It has been a while since ALMA antennas have pointed towards the sky. Many of you have used this time to mine the ALMA archive, do great science, think of future projects and contemplate about your past experience with ALMA data and the services, tools and user support offered since Cycle 0.

While the antennas are taking an unanticipated break, ALMA is launching a new global project to Redesign the User eXperience (RedUX). As part of RedUX we will establish focus groups to discuss specific aspects of the ALMA user experience. By volunteering to join a focus group, you can help shape the future of ALMA. If you are interested in contributing to RedUX (and in receiving a small gift at the end of the exercise, as a token of our appreciation for your contribution), please fill in this form. The form is not anonymous, as we need your contact details in order to be able to get in touch with you.

Data delivery of the ALMA Spectroscopic Survey in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (ASPECS)

Published: 20 Sep 2020

The ALMA Spectroscopic Survey in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (ASPECS) is a 3D survey of gas and dust in distant galaxies. It focuses on the best-studied cosmological deep field, the iconic Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Capitalizing on the unparalleled sensitivity of ALMA the ASPECS data unveil reservoirs of molecular gas and dust in galaxies up to redshifts z~4, when the Universe was only 1/8th of today's age. This interstellar medium constitutes the matter out of which stars form, and it is thus a prerequisite of the star formation process, and thus a key driver for galaxy evolution. The ASPECS data - that can be obtained from this page - provide the most sensitive image of the sky at 1.2 mm available to date, disclosing the emission of dust, which is heated up by the star formation.

Comparing B2B and In-Band phase referencing and Calibrator separation angles.

Published: 20 Sep 2020

Based on Extension of Capabilities (EOC) observations made in late 2017, the high-frequency long-baseline (HF-LB) team have recently published work detailing their extensive tests (please see the full article here). The main aim of the work was to compare standard phase referencing, defined as In-Band, with the band-to-band (B2B) technique. The latter technique allows the observatory to calibrate data using a phase calibrator observed at a lower frequency than the target source. The practical reason for B2B is that at higher and higher observing frequencies, quasars, used as phase calibrators become weaker and therefore a sufficiently bright one will often be at a large separation from the science target. This can result in less optimal calibration and imaging, something the team also aimed to clarify. To achieve their aims, the HF-LB team made observations in the In-Band and B2B modes where the modes shared the same close calibrators (within 2 deg of the targets), but also in cases where the In-Band calibrators were chosen to be further away, up to a maximal value of ~11 deg.

2020 August Status of ALMA

Published: 27 Aug 2020

Dear colleagues, 

The COVID-19 pandemic still continues to impact our lives in many ways around the world. The situation in Chile has slightly improved in the Santiago area but not yet improved in the northern area where the ALMA telescope is located. ALMA operations thus remain suspended and the timeline of resuming observations unfortunately remains uncertain. Detailed plans for the safe return to operations have been developed and regular reviews to consider starting the re-opening process of the Observatory have now started. ALMA is currently still in the Caretaker phase with small teams maintaining the safety of the ALMA equipment and infrastructure. As always, the top priority is the health and safety of all our staff.

The ALMA Regional Centers (ARCs) continue to provide support for PIs and users of archival data. The ARCs in particular assist the reduction and analysis of existing data through virtual face-to-face (f2f) support in addition to usual Helpdesk interactions. If you have any questions, want to sign up for a virtual f2f visit, or have comments or concerns related to the situation at ALMA, please contact the ALMA Helpdesk at https://help.almascience.org.

2020 July Status of ALMA

Published: 09 Jul 2020

Dear colleagues,

At this time, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the lives of ALMA staff and users around the world. Although in some of the ALMA regions the situation is slowly improving, in other regions, including Chile, the evolution of the outbreak remains highly uncertain.

Because of the on-going situation in Chile, ALMA operations unfortunately remain suspended. ALMA staff continue to monitor the situation very carefully and work on the development of detailed plans for the return to operations, which will be initiated when the situation allows. We will keep updating the user community on the developments. 

Northern Chile was recently hit by a magnitude 6.8 earthquake. Fortunately this caused no injuries to ALMA staff and no serious damage at the ALMA site. This was followed by extremely high winds, that led to some minor damage at the OSF.

As always, the ALMA Regional Centres provide support to their respective communities, and can assist in the analysis of your data and help with archive research projects. If you have any questions on this, or comments or concerns related to the situation at ALMA, please contact the ALMA Helpdesk at https://help.almascience.org

We wish you, your families and colleagues continued good health and safety.

Continued support in the European ARC Network during the COVID-19 pandemic

Published: 07 Jul 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic all ALMA staff within the European ARC Network have been working from home. As the situation in Europe is now slowly improving, staff at some of the different nodes and centre of expertise are slowly starting to work from the office again.

While visitors are not yet allowed to enter the premises of the respective nodes, the nodes continue to offer face-to-face user support through virtual means. Users that require assistance with data calibration and imaging or archival research projects may contact the ALMA Helpdesk at https://help.almascience.org to schedule a virtual meeting with their node.

The European ARC Network wishes you, your family, friends and colleagues the very best of health and stay safe!

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