ALMA Matters

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From / de Gerald Schieven
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2021)

Cycle 8 2021 Call for Proposals

Proposals are now solicited for Cycle 8 2021, and are due on 21 April 2021. Check out the ALMA Science Portal for information on the full capabilities offered in this cycle.

Cycle 8 2021 will take advantage of 2 new changes to the proposal review process:

  • Distributed Peer Review – To more fully engage the community in the review process, the ALMA Main Call for Proposals will be evaluated through a distributed peer review process. Detailed instructions, motivation and a list of Frequently Asked Questions can be found on the ALMA Science Portal.
    • Your immediate action is needed – login to ALMA Science Portal and update your profile, demographic and areas of expertise TODAY! To ensure you are assigned proposals in your proper area of expertise, you will need to update that part of the demographics page before the Cycle 8 2021 Proposal deadline. (NOTE: you can no longer just click on a TAB – you need to move through the TABs by clicking the “Next” button. Any questions, or problems, please contact the ALMA Helpdesk.)
  • Dual Anonymous Review – In a continuing effort to reduce the bias in the proposal review process, scientific justifications must be prepared as to not to reveal the PIs, Co-(P)Is or any member of the proposal team. The Main Call for Proposals will contain recommendations and suggestions on how to properly anonymize your proposal.

ALMA Training Sessions 22 March – 2 April

If you are new to ALMA or just wish to brush up on how ALMA can advance your science, the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC) and ALMA Ambassadors have organized a series of online ALMA proposal preparation webinars and hands-on sessions from 22 March – 02 April 2021. The goal of these events is to provide users with the knowledge they need to carry out cutting-edge scientific research using the ALMA facilities. We are particularly interested in reaching new users, so no experience with radio astronomy is required to participate!

These ALMA talks are hosted by experienced postdocs as part of the ALMA Ambassadors program. Registration for these events is free and each talk will be given multiple times in order to accommodate the diverse schedule constraints of the community. The schedule of events and registration links for the talks are online.

Novice users should also be aware of the ALMA Primer, an introduction to observing with ALMA. This 40 page document is available for download here.

The ALMA Ambassadors Program is open to post-doctoral research fellows working in the US and Canada who are interested in expanding their ALMA/interferometry expertise and sharing that knowledge with their home institutions through the organization of ALMA proposal preparation workshops and by serving as a local ALMA expert. The program provides training and a research grant. Applications for the Ambassador program are generally solicited in early summer. See here for more information.

Return to Operations Status

Just over a year after the shut down due to the pandemic, ALMA is expected to return to limited science operations this month (March). In the beginning, science operations will be limited. At least forty of the sixty-six antennas will be available. Like regular operations, projects in the Cycle 7 observing queue will be executed if suitable for observation with the available number of antennas. The execution time will be increased to account for the lower sensitivity of the reduced number of antennas to achieve the sensitivity requested by the Primary Investigator. Also, test observations on capabilities for future cycles will be performed.

In parallel to science operations, ALMA continues to recover antennas to enable regular operations. All activities at the observatory are being conducted following an extensive set of safety protocols for managing the risk posed by the virus. As always, the health and safety of all ALMA staff is our top priority. For the most up-to-date information, please consult the ALMA Science Portal.

The ARCADE Science Platform Development Study

We are pleased to announce the completion of the ALMA Cycle 7 Development Study, ARCADE: ALMA Reduction in the CANFAR Data Environment. Combined with an in-kind contribution from the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), the study funded an interdisciplinary team of astronomers and developers from NRC and McMaster University to build a science platform prototype that enables ALMA data reduction, thoroughly test usability and reliability of the system, and determine the steps required to offer such a platform to the wider community.

The ARCADE science platform provides a stable and interactive computing environment in which users are able to process and analyse ALMA data. ARCADE is built entirely on open-source software and designed so that it can be scaled up to meet the storage and processing demands of the user. The software is robust, easy to maintain, and portable across a range of cloud computing infrastructure and storage systems. ARCADE is also fully integrated with existing ALMA value-added software packages, CARTA and ADMIT.

While not yet production-ready, ARCADE has already provided valuable lessons on the technical, scientific, and logistical solutions required for such a platform. The final study report is publicly available on the NRAO’s website.

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