JCMT Update

By / par Chris Wilson (McMaster University, JCMT Board Member for Canada)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

Magnetic field vectors in the “Pillars of Creation” in the M16 nebula are shown overlaid on a 3-colour HST image from Hester et al. (1996). The data were obtained at 850 microns with the POL2 instrument mounted in front of SCUBA-2 on the JCMT. Figure from Pattle et al. (2018, ApJL, in press).

The JCMT continues to produce exiting new science results, with many results from the Large Programs appearing in the past 6 months. I’d like to particularly highlight the amazing results from the Canadian built polarimeter POL2 on SCUBA-2, including the first observations of the magnetic field structure inside the “Pillars of Creation” from the BISTRO Large Program (see Pattle et al., 2018, ApJL, in press, ArXiv: 1805.11554 and Ward-Thompson et al., 2017, ApJ). Pierre Bastien (Montreal) also presented a poster on POL-2 results at the recent CASCA meeting. The first generation Gould Belt Survey with SCUBA-2 is being very productive and publishing lots of papers, with good Canadian participation and leadership. There is also a major Canadian role in the new transient large program with some exciting papers published recently.

Canadian PI observing time on the JCMT continues to be very oversubscribed, although the oversubscription rate in the most recent semester (18B) was lower than previous semesters. This drop may reflect the uncertainty in future Canadian participation in the JCMT (see below), or simply proposer fatigue caused by the high oversubscription rate.

The East Asian Observatory (EAO) currently has a 5-year agreement to operate the JCMT that ends in February, 2020. Recently, the EAO Board decided that they wish to continue to operate the JCMT for a second 5-year term. They would welcome continued participation by their U.K. and Canadian partners, and are also looking for additional partners from Asia and beyond.

As a result of this extended commitment by the EAO, the observatory is planning for upgrades to the existing instrumentation. The current 230 GHz receiver will be replaced with a newer, more sensitive receiver within the next year. Active investigations are underway for replacements for both SCUBA-2 and the 345 GHz array receiver HARP-B. Assistant Director Jessica Dempsey gave a talk about the future instrumentation plans at the JCMT at the recent CASCA meeting in Victoria.

The current Canadian university funding runs out February 2019. We will be looking for options to continue to fund JCMT operations, but none are currently obvious. The NSERC RTI program that has funded the Canadian operations contribution from February 2017-February 2019 did not run a competition in 2017. It remains to be seen whether it will be resurrected for the 2018 competition this fall given the new infusion of money from the Federal Government to the granting councils. The CADC currently operates the archive for the JCMT and about half of our PI observing time is tied to this CADC contribution. Whether this situation will continue if university funding for the JCMT ends remains to be confirmed. Another opportunity we are exploring is whether a CFI proposal could fund a contribution to the new instruments on the JCMT in return for continued PI access by Canadian researchers.

If operational funding from Canada lapses completely, Canadian astronomers will continue to be members of and have access to the existing Large Programs on the JCMT. Whether this courtesy would be extended at the next large program call (likely sometime in 2020) remains to be seen.

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