With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact our lives around the world, everyone at ALMA hopes that you and your families are staying safe and healthy. The pandemic situation in Chile is remaining stable and over the past few weeks ALMA staff have been moving forward with ALMA’s plan to recover the telescope array in the Atacama, as announced on October 1st, 2020.
At this stage, the news is positive. The first phase of the plan – preparing the ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF) at 2900 metres and returning a limited number of staff and contractors to staying on site at the OSF – is well underway and on track thanks to the hard work and dedication of the ALMA staff. Readiness for the next phase – the beginning of the process of restarting the Array Operations Site (AOS) at 5000 metres – is currently being assessed. As always, the top priority throughout this process is the health and safety of all our staff, who are working within an extensive set of enhanced safety protocols.
While this is welcome good news, we must keep in mind that the road to recovery of operations - and ultimately science observations - will be long, and it remains difficult to predict the exact timeline as it depends on many factors not under our control. If the recovery continues according to plan, January 2021 is the earliest there may be enough functional antennas and cooled receivers to attempt the first science test observations, followed by the regular February maintenance period. March 2021 thus remains the earliest it may be possible to attempt regular science operations.
As always, 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.