ALMA Matters

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From/de Gerald Schieven
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2017)

Cycle 5 Call for Proposals

The ALMA Observatory will be issuing the Call for Cycle 5 Observing Proposals on March 21, 2017. Proposals may be submitted through the ALMA Science Portal (almascience.org). The deadline for proposals will be 15UT (11am EDT, 8am PDT) on April 20, 2017. New capabilities include a minimum of 43 antennas in the 12-m Array and 10 antennas in the 7-m Array, a full complement of receivers from Band 3 through 10, covering the full range of wavelengths available from ground-based telescopes from ~3.6 mm to 0.3 mm (84 GHz – 0.95 THz), full Stokes polarimetry at Bands 3 through 7, maximum baselines of 16 km at Bands 3 through 6, and many more. Please see the Proposer’s Guide on the ALMA Science Portal for full details.

An ALMA proposal preparation workshop will be held at the University of Toronto on March 30, hosted by ALMA Ambassador Chelsea Sharon (McMaster). For more information, consult the web page. A similar workshop was held at UBC on March 8, hosted by the Millimetre Astronomy Group from NRC Herzberg.

An ALMA Archive Preview Tool

Canadian ALMA proposers and users should be aware that while the ALMA archive does not yet have preview images of archived dataset, the Japanese Virtual Observatory has been archiving the fits files that are delivered as part of the ALMA packages to PIs. The data on the JVO site are publicly available datasets only and provide an excellent way to search public ALMA products and look at fits images of the datasets. This capability will allow you to judge whether a dataset is worth downloading from the ALMA archive itself, and the fits files may contain enough information to utilize them to help in your proposal preparation, without even downloading data from the ALMA archive itself. The ALMA FITS archive on JVO can be accessed at jvo.nao.ac.jp/portal/alma/archive.do. Searches can be done on targets, project codes or proposal titles, as well as coordinates and frequency. The ALMA archive is accessed at almascience.nrao.edu/aq/.

Call for Development Study Proposals

Have an idea for an instrument, software tool, or observing technique, that could be used to enhance the science from ALMA? Funding is available to develop such ideas. A Call for Study Proposals was issued on March 7, with a deadline of 1 May 2017 at 23:59 EDT. Up to US$200k for one year is available for general development studies, or up to US$400k for 2 years for strategic studies, i.e. those which support in-depth studies aligned with certain development priorities (see go.nrao.edu/Roadmap_for_ALMA). For full details about the call, see https://go.nrao.edu/ALMA_Cycle5_Development.

Band 3 Update

The NRC-supplied ALMA Band 3 suite of 73 receiver cartridges continues to operate reliably at the observatory site. Cartridge 12, an early production-phase cartridge, has been returned to HAA with a fault that developed in one of the low noise amplifiers (LNAs) – this is the first cartridge to be returned for repair since December 2014. The cartridge is currently in our lab and the LNA will be inspected and repaired.

HAA is working on various projects to improve the performance of the Band 3 cartridges. A solution for improving the total power stability by periodically de-fluxing the SIS mixer junctions has been developed and is being tested on one cartridge at ALMA. The hardware work to upgrade the cartridges is straightforward and can be done at the observatory.

HAA is also pursuing research into more significant upgrades to Band 3 through North American ALMA Development funding. Ongoing is a study to develop improved sideband-separating (2SB) assemblies. These offer the potential of improving a number of performance measures, such as sideband rejection and LO signal distribution. Potential future upgrade initiatives include doubling the IF bandwidth of the cartridges – in conjunction with proposed signal transport and correlator upgrades, this would provide a major boost in continuum sensitivity and permit wider spectral windows for line work.

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