JCMT Update

By/par Chris Wilson
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)


Anyone on Maunakea in December 2017 will have a chance to see an unusual sight: the JCMT operating without its iconic membrane. (A fantastic picture of the JCMT under “normal” conditions by William Montgomerie is included in this article.) The observatory is planning a month-long observing campaign to see if they can commission the POL-2 polarimeter to operate at 450 microns. If anyone gets a good picture, I would love to see it!

The JCMT continues to perform well and to produce exciting new science results. A recent press release highlights an exciting discovery from one of the large programs, the JCMT Transient Survey of an 18-month recurring twinkle in the submillimetre emission from a young star, which suggests the presence of an unseen planet. The variation was discovered by Hyunju Yoo, graduate student at Chungnam National University and advisor Jeong-Eun Lee, Professor at Kyung Hee University (South Korea) during their analysis of monthly observations of the Serpens Main star-forming region. Their paper was published in ApJ November 1, 2017.

Three of the original seven Large Programs on the JCMT have finished collecting all their data: SCOPE, a continuum survey of pre-stellar evolution focusing on Planck cold cores; MALATANG, a survey of spectral lines (HCN and HCO+) tracing highly excited dense gas in 19 nearby galaxies; and S2COSMOS, a sensitive 2-degree square map of the COSMOS field at 850 microns. The remaining four programs are progressing well. All programs passed their mid-term review last spring.

Observing for some of the nine new large programs began in August 2017 at the start of semester 17A. One of these programs, “HASHTAG”, a deep map of M31 at 850 microns with CO J=3-2 maps in selected regions, has already completed all its CO observing, while other programs (such as JINGLE-II, an extension of the JINGLE nearby galaxy survey to starburst and green valley galaxies) are waiting for their sources to become available in the winter semester. The remaining four programs from the initial large program call have first priority on the telescope during large program nights, which make up 50% of the observing time on the telescope. Summaries and more details on all programs can be found here.

Just as a reminder, all JCMT data (PI and large programs) become public one year after the end of the semester in which the data were taken. Also, although the original call for new members in the large programs has closed, many of the teams continue to accept students and postdocs as new members.

The Board of the East Asian Observatories (EAO) struck a Mid-Term Review Committee to discuss the future of the JCMT. The committee met in July and delivered their report to the Board in October 2017. This report will provide useful input to the EAO Board as they consider whether to renew their contract to operate the JCMT for a second 5-year term. The current JCMT agreement extends until early 2020. The UK university consortium was successful in obtaining a second round of funding to contribute to JCMT operations for an additional three years (taking them to 2021). The current round of Canadian funding from NSERC lasts until March 2019.

The next call for PI proposals for JCMT semester 18B will be issued in mid-February with proposals due in mid-March. Depending on whether or not we can identify new sources of funding in Canada, this call for proposals could be the last call that is open to Canadians PIs.

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