European ARC Newsletter
19 Jul 2017
Antennas at Sunset in Chajnantor - ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

Welcome to the European ALMA Regional Centre Newsletter!  

This Newsletter is a compilation of recent European ALMA Regional Centre Announcement items. Follow the links or visit the European ARC Announcements to read more. In addition to these Announcements the Newsletter informs you about various developments in the ALMA Programme, as well as about ALMA or ALMA-related meetings.

Up-to-date information about weather, configuration and scheduling can be found on the ALMA Status page.

European ARC Announcements

Atacama Large-Aperture Submm/mm Telescope (AtLAST)

04 Jul 2017:

Workshop to discuss science/technical aspects of AtLAST
ESO Headquarters, Garching, Germany, 17-19 January 2018

ESO is co-organizing in early 2018 a workshop on the scientific merit for – and technical implementation of – an Atacama Large Aperture Submm/mm Telescope (AtLAST). The workshop will be a crucial forum to collect insights and feedback, and commit to a single vision for realising a single dish facility. The program will cover aspects of the science case driving the telescope and instrument requirements as well as potential telescope concepts.

Read more

Status Update of ALMA Cycle 4 Observations

02 Jul 2017:

The ALMA Observatory has experienced severe winter storms, making it difficult to recover the 12-metre array for Principal Investigator (PI) observations. This has had an even more detrimental impact on the relocation to long baselines. Routine observations utilising the 7-m and Total Power Arrays are ongoing and clearance work is continuing to enable 12-metre array PI science and reconfigure to the longest baselines. An update regarding the revised configuration schedule will be released in the coming weeks; see the ALMA News for more detail.

Read more

Results of ALMA Cycle 4 Supplemental Call

01 Jul 2017:

198 proposals requesting 4815 hours of observing time on the ALMA 7-metre Array were received in response to the Cycle 4 Supplemental Call for Proposals. A total of 32 proposals requesting 716 hours were accepted and added to the 7-metre Array observing queue for the remainder of Cycle 4. See the report for further details.

Read more

Fifth ALMA User Survey

01 Jun 2017:

The fifth ALMA user survey was conducted between the 22 September and 24 October 2016. Overall, the users showed a relatively high level of satisfaction. On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being best and 5 being worst), the overall satisfaction across all ALMA regions was generally rated ~2, or better, for all the topics. The complete ALMA User Satisfaction Survey is available.
The ALMA Observatory sincerely thanks all users who took the time to answer this survey and provide valuable comments.

Read more

Submillimetre/mm/cm QUESO Workshop 2017

30 May 2017:

Submillimetre/mm/cm QUESO Workshop 2017:
Centimetre-Sub-Millimetre Q&U (and V) European Southern Observatory Workshop
ESO Garching, 25 – 27 October 2017

We are pleased to draw you attention to the workshop (still in the organising phase) Submillimetre/mm/cm QUESO Workshop 2017:
Centimetre-Sub-Millimetre Q&U (and V) European Southern Observatory Workshop.
The aim of the workshop is to bring together leading and potential future science users, observatory calibration experts and software developers from broad research fields including AGN, star-formation, solar observations, and CMB.

Read more

ALMA Long Baseline Workshop (2nd announcement)

29 May 2017:

ALMA Long Baseline Workshop (2nd announcement)
Mielparque Kyoto, October 3-5, 2017

The Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) is now the most powerful mm/submm interferometer in the world, and it is producing a total of > 500 refereed papers in nearly all fields of astronomy and astrophysics. In particular, the ~0.02” submm images obtained during the long baseline campaign in 2014 (ALMA Partnership et al. 2015) have led to numerous publication and followup observational and theoretical studies, signifying the extreme importance of the high resolution imaging capabilities of ALMA. 

Read more

Report on ALMA Cycle 5 Proposal Submission

29 May 2017:

The report on the ALMA Cycle 5 proposal submission statistics is now available. It provides a summary of items such as the number of submitted proposals and time requested, subscription rates, and comparisons with the number of hours requested in previous Cycles.

Read more

Revised Deadline for ALMA Cycle 5 Phase 2

28 May 2017:

The deadline for ALMA PIs to submit their Phase 2 material for the approved projects has been set to 7 September 2017. Users can delegate the submission of the Phase 2 material in case of unavailability. Guidelines to PIs will be made public in July.

Read more

ERIS 2017 - European Radio Interferometry School 2017

11 May 2017:

From 16 - 20 October 2017 ASTRON (the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy) and JIVE  (Joint Institute for VLBI ERIC) will host the European Radio Interferometry School, ERIS 2017. This school is the seventh of a series of summer schools supported by RadioNet. ERIS will provide a week of lectures and tutorials on how to achieve scientific results from radio interferometry.

Read more

Staff News

ALMA Instrument Scientist

A vacancy notice for ALMA Instrument Scientist has been published after Robert Laing has left ESO and joined SKA effective 1 June 2017. The deadline for applications is 31 August 2017.

Head of ESO ALMA Support Centre

The current Head of the ESO ALMA Support Centre (EASC), Wolfgang Wild, will become the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) Project Manager with effect from 1 September 2017. CTA, a future new gamma ray observatory with two sites, one in the Northern hemisphere at La Palma and one in the Southern hemisphere at ESO’s Paranal observatory, is the next step in high-energy astronomy.

Leonardo Testi, currently ALMA Programme Scientist and Deputy Head of EASC, will be the interim Head of EASC after Wolfgang’s departure.


ALMA Programme News

ALMA Upgrade Studies

ALMA Upgrade Studies are selected by ESO through competitive calls for proposals that are issued on a three-year cycle. These studies can serve as a first step to prepare for ALMA development projects, which will deliver upgrades to the observatory.  Funding for the study activities is partly provided by ESO and partly relies on in-kind contributions from the participating institutes. The top priority studies from the 2016 call are now underway, while studies from the 2013 call are being completed, which brings the opportunity to highlight some of the work being done here in the EU.  Among the 2013 studies completed or close to completion are:

  • Band 2+3 passive optical component development (INAF): This work yielded designs for wideband components such as lenses, feed horns, and orthomode transducers (OMTs) covering the entire 67-116 GHz atmospheric window.
  • Band 2+3 low noise amplifier (LNA) development (Manchester): Related to the above, some of the lowest noise wideband cryogenic amplifiers to date were designed at the University of Manchester and built in collaboration with Caltech Radio Astronomy Lab.  See Cuadrado-Calle et al. 2017 for details (
  • Options for optimizing the operations of the ALMA Front-End cryocoolers (STFC-RAL): the parameters of the ALMA cryostats in operation were monitored and compared with the lab measurements, in order to propose more effective operations.
  • Data Analysis Software for ALMA (Univ. zu Koeln): the MAGIX optimization software, the XCLASS line modelling, and line identification software have been made compatible with CASA.  An interface between the ARTIST/LIME package and CASA is being designed and prototyped.
  • Next generation digitisers (Univ. de Bordeaux): a new design for the digitiser boards have been developed and new components tested. This study provides the basis for developing a possible expansion of the ALMA digitisers.
  • Solar observing modes (Ondejov): the study produced software for Solar observations that is currently in use at the observatory, as well as general activities in support of the Solar campaigns.
  • mmVLBI operations concepts (MPIfR): supported the development of mmVLBI operations concepts that are now in use at the observatory.

New studies that were kicked off in 2017 as a result of the 2016 call are:

  • Band 2+3 cartridge prototype and related activities (ESO, INAF, UMan, UChile, NAOJ): performance tests comparing the optics and LNAs have mostly been completed as part of this set of studies, with very promising results. A testbed cartridge has been assembled and tested at cryogenic temperatures. Full ALMA-spec components are being developed and integrated, and tests will be performed in the coming months towards the goal of a Preliminary Design Review for the cartridge in late 2017.
  • Digitiser and tuneable filter bank (TFB) upgrades (Univ. de Bordeaux): as a follow-up study of the activities performed in the previous cycle, the team is developing and testing a detailed design for new digital electronics that will provide a higher number of bits and broader instantaneous bandwidth (at least a factor of 2) for the ALMA system. Together with wideband receivers, correlator upgrades that bring both higher spectral resolution and process wider bandwidth, and new software, this will increase very significantly both the instantaneous frequency coverage and the spectroscopic capabilities of ALMA.
  • Digital Front End (NOVA): A team led by NOVA is examining the design and science requirements for next generation ALMA front end receiver systems that incorporate digital electronics earlier in the signal chain for better data processing, formatting, and sideband separation.
  • ALMA Observing Tool (UKATC): This study explores options for the future evolution of the ALMA OT, incorporating new technologies, experience from ALMA operations, and user requirements.
  • SIS Junction development (GARD): The team is developing improved technologies for ALMA receiver upgrades with the goal of higher sensitivity and larger instantaneous bandwidth.

Band 5

Cartridge production and integration continues to proceed towards the use of Band 5 in Cycle 5. The average production rate of cold cartridges remained at the planned steady state of about 3 cartridges per month: 8 cartridges have been tested and shipped to the Observatory during the last quarter, making it a total of 59 cartridges delivered.

The integration of Band 5 receivers into ALMA Front Ends (FE) at the OSF accumulated a few months delay starting from the beginning of 2016, due to a FE cryogenic maintenance problem. During the shutdown period in February 2017, good progress has been made, with 6 cartridges integrated, however the average integration rate remains still lower than required. As of the end of June, 42 cartridges have been integrated in FEs, two more are in the integration process and 15 are in the storage at the OSF, waiting for available FEs.

All delivered Band 5 receivers meet specifications and, in particular, the sensitivity, sideband rejection ratio and cross-polarization performance are well within the tight specifications.

ALMA Band 2+3 development

ESO continued to support development studies on the science case and technical feasibility of a receiver covering the spectral range of the current ALMA Bands 2 and 3 (67-116 GHz; Band 2+3) with 16 GHz IF bandwidth per polarization. Such a new technology receiver will enable a step-change in the ALMA science capabilities in this important frequency range. The ongoing R&D and prototyping activities, started in 2014, are being carried out by a consortium of several European institutes, ESO, University of Chile, and NAOJ. Recent results include:

  • A full test of the prototype optical components (feed horn, lens and OMT) has demonstrated that such a system will meet all ALMA requirements for the optics over the wider band with no compromises in performance over a design optimized for Band 2.
  • Test results for MMIC amplifiers designed by the University of Manchester in collaboration with CRAL and using the NGC 30 nm gate length process are extremely promising, with good noise temperatures measured over more than 80% of the wide band and little dependence on frequency. There is also a commercial alternative, from the Low Noise Factory, with comparable performance. We are testing both types of the optics, designed and manufactured by the University of Chile and INAF, and two types of MMIC LNAs, in a prototype cold cartridge.
  • The Preliminary Design Review (PDR) is being organised for end of November.

ALMA Antenna Maintenance Review

The ALMA Directors Council has asked for a review of the ALMA antenna maintenance which will be held at the OSF from 18 to 21 September. An international panel of experts will assess the overall maintenance activities including the somewhat different maintenance and quite different overhaul approaches in effect (or planned) for the different antenna types, as well as the different mixes of onsite versus offsite contributions.


Upcoming ALMA or ALMA-related Meetings

  • ALMA Long Baseline Workshop
    3–5 October 2017, Mielparque Kyoto, Japan

    The scope of this three day workshop is to (1) review the high-resolution ALMA science results obtained to date, (2) identify detailed science cases for the future baseline expansion of ALMA (e.g. aiming at an angular resolution of ~ 0.001”-0.003"), (3) discuss the scientific and technical requirements such as, for example, angular resolution, number and size of the antennas, sensitivity and operational frequency, and (4) review the technical feasibility studies for longer baseline imaging. We envision the output of this workshop to be used as a guideline to pave the pathway for the future expansion of ALMA.

  • ERIS 2017 - European Radio Interferometry School 2017
    16 – 20 October 2017, Dwingeloo, The Netherlands

    This school is the seventh of a series of summer schools supported by RadioNet. ERIS will provide a week of lectures and tutorials on how to achieve scientific results from radio interferometry.
    The topics covered by the lectures/tutorials will include: (1)Calibration and imaging of continuum, spectral line, and polarization data; (2)Low frequency (LOFAR domain), cm-wave (e-MERLIN domain), decimetre-wave (HI/OH domain), high frequency (ALMA/IRAM domain), and VLBI interferometry; (3)Extracting the information from astronomical data and interpreting the results; (4)Choosing the most suitable array and observing plan for your project.

  • Submillimetre/mm/cm QUESO Workshop 2017: Centimetre-Sub-Millimetre Q&U (and V) European Southern Observatory Workshop
    ESO Garching, 25 – 27 October 2017

    The aim of the workshop is to bring together leading and potential future science users, observatory calibration experts and software developers from broad research fields including AGN, star-formation, solar observations, and CMB.
    Starting with the existing facilities and the prospected future capabilities, our aim is to stimulate discussion about the most critical scientific cases, some of which may require developments of the next generation observational and calibration techniques to achieve the requested precision. We aim also at encouraging cross disciplinary scientific or technical collaborations, such as sharing recently (or on-going) developed data modeling and analysis tools. The workshop will take place at the ESO Headquarters in Garching (Germany) from October 25-27, 2017.

  • The Atacama Large Aperture Submm/mm Telescope Workshop
    ESO Garching, 17 – 19 January 2018

    We announce an exciting new workshop discussing the technical, logistical, and scientific aspects of a large single dish telescope to complement ALMA. One of the goals of the ALMA 2030 Development Vision is to improve the imaging/survey speed of ALMA. We will explore the possibility that this may be most efficiently and effectively done by building a large aperture single dish, with large field of view and a suite of instruments allowing bolometric and spectroscopic surveys, as well as recovery of scales larger than ALMA’s field of view. Currently, no large (> 20-meter) single dish exists in the mm/submm exist in the Southern Hemisphere.