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July 2004 - First Edition - Download PDF here.

This is the first edition of the quarterly European ALMA newsletter. The editors are Tom Wilson, Carlos De Breuck and Martin Zwaan (ESO).

ALMA construction site near San Pedro de Atacama

The containers shown above were recently moved to the Operations Support Facility (OSF) site near San Pedro de Atacama. These were formerly on the Paranal site, and will be used for the construction crews working on ALMA. Below, we show an artists sketch of the proposed OSF building. The large structure toward the rear centre is a hall to be used for antenna construction. In normal operation, the astronomers on site will be working in the OSF, assessing the quality of the data and monitoring ALMA performance.

ALMA Regional Centers (ARCs)

A broad range of science support (formerly "additional functions", i.e. essential but unfunded activities for ALMA) and user support (formerly "core functions", i.e. part of the basic ALMA project) activities are necessary to enable the European community to exploit ALMA to its full scientific potential. These have been examined in detail by the European ALMA Science Advisory Committee (ESAC), the European ALMA Board (EAB), and the ESO Scientific Technical Committee (STC). A common approach was agreed and approved by ESO Council on 7 June 2004. The STC underlined the importance of a specific effort in Europe to increase the competitiveness of the European scientific community in the exploitation of ALMA, which will be the first ground-based astronomical facility being built jointly by Europe and the USA.

ESO will perform user support services, that is, proposal calls, evaluation, observation preparation, basic data analysis support, and ALMA Archive operations. ESO will also take a strong role in coordinating the ARC network to ensure that it is effective in supporting all parts of the ESO community. In particular ESO will ensure that software development and distribution within the European ARC is efficient.

For science support, the STC agreed that the first step must be a cal for Expressions of Interest by institutes, or groups of institutes, having strong expertise in this field, with the endorsement of their funding agencies where appropriate. The preferred outcome would be a network consisting of a small number of science support centers, operating in a highly collaborative manner and making the optimum use of the existing European millimeter wave and aperture synthesis expertise.

For members of the ARC, the broader range of science support services required includes (but not necessarily limited to):

1. Advanced Data Reduction and Archive Operations: direct, hands-on data reduction and calibration support for ALMA users.

2. Scientific Community Development and Scientific Support: Internal postdoctoral fellowships (support at ARC), organization of training programs and schools, organization of conferences and workshops (get community together to identify scientific and technical priorities for new developments) and help organize consortia within the community to respond to calls for next generation hardware (This will be done in connection with RADIONET and OPTICON).

The first step in establishing such a network should be Expressions of Interest from institutes or groups of institutes with pre-existing strong expertise in this field who desire to provide such science support services.

New Personnel

The European Project Manager of ALMA is John Credland. He was formerly the Director of Science Projects at the European Space Agency, and has had a long connection with ALMA as the chair of the ALMA Management Advisory Committee (AMAC). Credland succeeds R. Kurz who has retired after 6 years at ESO.

Tony Beasley has accepted AUI/NRAO´s offer to become ALMA Project Manager in the Joint ALMA Office (JAO) in Santiago de Chile. It is anticipated that he will begin serving in this position in September 2004. Prior to this, he will be participating in various ALMA meetings. Tony has been Project Manager for CARMA at Caltech; before taking that position he held a position at NRAO.


Rick Murowinski has accepted AUI/NRAO´s offer to become ALMA Project Engineer in the JAO. He began his duties on May 18, 2004. Rick comes to ALMA from The Astronomy Technology Research Group (Victoria), where he has been Deputy Leader of the group and working on ground- and space-based instrumentation for large telescopes: Gemini and JWST among others. Rick´s research interests are in solid state detector physics. The move to ALMA brings his career in a full circle from its start at Algonquin Radio Telescope and then working on SIS mixers at Chalmer´s Institute of Technology (Goteberg). Rick will take up duties for JAO while initially remaining based in Victoria. Once the new Chilean offices are ready this fall, he will move to Santiago.

Antenna Selection Process

The two ALMA prototype antennas have been tested at the VLA site in Socorro New Mexico, USA. The testing finished at the end of May and a full report is being produced. A request for bids for the production ALMA antennas was sent out jointly by AUI and ESO in late 2003. The deadline for replies was April 2004. A total of five responses were received. A group of experts (the Joint Technical Evaluation Team) met for about 1 month to provide a detailed technical evaluation of all the reponses. The Joint Technical Evaluation Team has now produced its report and has delivered it to AUI and ESO.

At the end of June, the sealed envelopes with the financial and contractual elements of the bids were opened, and these are now being evaluated. There will be further discussions in the next months. The plan calls for signing the antenna contracts in September 2004.

vertex antennaVertexRSI prototype antenna alcatel antennaAlcatel/EIE prototype antenna
ALMA community day

In conjunction with Radio Net, an ALMA Community Day meeting will be held on Friday, 24 Sept 2004 in the ESO Auditorium, Garching from 8:30 to 16:30.

The goal is to keep the European community informed about ALMA progress since the last such meeting in November 2002. There will be a report on the project status, and additional reports on other ALMA activities such as the status of software, the plans for early science, the operations plan and planning for ALMA regional centers. There will also be a sample of exciting recent scientific results relevant to ALMA and the opportunities afforded by ALMA in its Early Science phase. Confirmed invited speakers (so far) are C. Cesarsky (ESO), M. Tarenghi (JAO), D. Bockelee-Morvan (Paris Obs.), W. Holland (ATC/ROE), R. Laing (ESO), D. Silva (ESO), L. Tacconi (MPE), F. Walter (NRAO), D. Wilner (CfA), and T. L. Wilson (ESO). There is a small amount of time for a limited number of 10 minute talks about science related to ALMA. Please send title and short description to A committee from the European ALMA Science Committee will make selections.

Since the meeting is held shortly before Oktoberfest in Munich, hotel rooms will be in short supply. Thus, please make an early decision about attending the meeting and book the hotel room early! ESO have reserved some hotel rooms for Thursday night, but not for the weekend. Although the official registration deadline has passed, we are still accepting registrations and booking hotel rooms.

There is a limited amount of funding available to assist astronomers who wish to attend but cannot obtain travel money. In order to apply for financial assistance, please send an email with a header ALMA Community Meeting Financial Assistance and containing full details to

Upcoming Events

ESO ALMA Community Day
24 September 2004, ESO Garching
Deadline for registration is 1 July 2004 (late registrations will be considered)

The Cool Universe: Observing Cosmic Dawn
4-8 October 2004, Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria, Valparaiso, Chile
Deadline for pre-registration is 15 July 2004

The Dusty and Molecular Universe
22-27 October 2004, Paris
Deadline for registration is 1 July 2004

Fourth IRAM Millimeter Interferometry School 2004
22-27 November 2004, Grenoble
Deadline for registration is 15 September 2004

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