ALMA ALMA North American Science Advisory Committee Telecon Phone Meeting 2008, May 23, 2008, 14:00 EDT

Contact Information

  • 2008-05-23 18:00 UT (Friday)
  • Duration: 1 hr
  • USA Number: 1-866-675-5385
  • Outside USA Number: +1 517 444 6916
  • Passcode: 8445333#
  • Leaders: Andrew Baker


ANASAC Members (Attendees in RED):
  • Andrew Baker (Rutgers) (2008) [Chair]
  • John Bally (U. Colorado) (2008)
  • Andrew Blain (Caltech) (2008) (ASAC Vice Chair, NA)
  • Mike Fall (Space Telescope Science Institute) (2010)
  • Tim Heckman (Johns Hopkins) (2010)
  • Shardha Jogee (U. Texas) (2010)
  • Kelsey Johnson (U. Virginia) (2009)
  • Doug Johnstone (HIA/DAO, Victoria) (2008)
  • J. Xavier Prochaska (Lick Observatory) (2010)
  • Hsien Shang (ASIAA) (2011)
  • Gordon Stacey (Cornell) (2009)
  • Alycia Weinberger (DTM) (2009)
  • Jonathan Williams (U. Hawaii) (2008)
  • Mel Wright (UC Berkeley) (2008)
(Bold = Member of ASAC)

  • C. Brogan
  • J. Hibbard
  • A. Remijan
  • A. Wootten
  • C. Carilli

  • C. Wilson


1) Action Items (Carilli)

Open action items:

No open AI identified

2) Update on NAASC & NA ALMA Ops activities (Hibbard)

  • We are filling/have filled a number of ALMA Ops positions:
    • JAO Head of Technical Services: R. Prestage (formerly GBT Director)
    • 2 NAASC CSV liaison: One accepted (A. Remijan, formerly ALMA postdoc w/Wootten; maintainer of; one offer pending
    • 2 NAASC CASA developer: one accepted (R. Reid, formerly ALMA postdoc w/Wootten); other offer declined.
    • NA ALMA EPO program officer. John Stoke (formerly of STScI/JWST; originator of Viewspace).
    • NAASC Head: interviews on-going
    • JAO Operations Astronomers: 4 offers being drafted
    • JAO System Astronomers: 2 offers being drafted
    • 2 EA CASA Developers: offers accepted
    • 1 EA CSV liaison: accepted: M. Saito
    • 2 EU CASA Developers: offers pending
    • 2 EU CSV liaison: accepted: M. Zwaan, A. Biggs.
  • SciOps IPT meeting in Santiago May 14-15. Hiring, s/w testing, implementation. First meeting with new JAO Director Thijs de Graauw. Searches for permanent director and project manager are proceeding (former more advanced); Hasegawa is interim project manager.
  • Freeze & testing for CASA beta patch 2 (for NRAO summer school tutorials in June; participants being given choice between CASA and AIPS Classic.). Details on new CASA capabilities & future development targets available in ppt presentation to NRAO Users Committee
  • ObsTool external test is imminent. 8 testers from NRAO/NAm ALMA will participate.
  • Splatalogue had a beta release. See article in April NRAO Newsletter
  • The Canadian MOU is still under revision. In-kind rather than cash contributions expected for share of ops outside Chile; this may be negotiated on a year-by-year basis.
  • NAASC members have been very busy reporting, recruiting, evaluating, and contributing to numerous NRAO committees, including the Users, Visiting, AUI ops review, AUI coop agreement, quarterly report... See ppt presentation to NRAO Users Committee. Includes functional assignments for FY09.

Bally: What impact will exchange rates have on the operations budget? Russell & Puxley will meet next week to discuss this. NSF does not include contingency in budgeting for operations, but this will also be a problem for NOAO/CTIO.

3) Update on ALMA construction by NA project scientist (Wootten)

ATF Interferometric spectrum of Orion Interferometric spectrum of Orion from ATF, reduced in CASA.
  • ALMA Status Report (From R. Hills to ASAC).
  • ASAC Matters.
    • Response to Report
    • New Charges
    • Blain becomes ASAC Chair; Meeting in Charlottesville 28-29 September 2008.
  • Band 10 Report Atmosphere at 350 microns with lines The atmospheric transmission during best octile (stringency = 8) conditions at Chajnantor over the ALMA Band 10 window (787-950 GHz) is shown. Some important lines mentioned in the ASAC Enhancement report (Sept 2001) on Band 10 are flagged. Additionally, the ASAC mentioned the scientific utility of this window for Redshifted [C II] emission and also for dust emission . Redshifted [C II] can, of course, cover this band for z=1 - 1.4, a critical period in the evolution of galaxies toward their present form. The band is clearest in its center, of course, which makes that the best frequency locale for dust measurements. Please see Attachment at bottom of agenda Wooten requests input by email from ANASAC members.
  • Band 7 Cross polarization performance status. (See attached report below).
  • Extended configuration status
  • Quarter Wave plate requirements
  • ALMA Science IPT wiki page
  • Astronomer Outreach: ESO Newsletter New ESO Messenger with WVR Correction article, New NRAO Newsletter ALMA News. NAOJ News. NRAO ALMA Calendar

4) Discussion of ANASAC Charge II (Blain et al.)

See text of charge II below, plus preliminary report from Blain.

Weinberger: Should we focus on building the millimeter community specifically, or millimeter knowledge in the broader community? Prochaska: What are the main bottlenecks for getting science out of ALMA? Wilson: Ideally, want people to start thinking about how best to exploit early science. CFHT experience is instructive: community had a plan for using new instruments, which made for rapid turnaround of science. Want science-focused response here. Shang: Workshops and outreach useful for stimulating community thinking. Johnson: People who attend workshops tend to be already invested in the project. What may really be needed are grass-roots efforts (e.g., ALMA science discussion group at UVa) that are too small-scale for NRAO or this committee to effectively organize. Johnstone: Making materials available to such groups would be helpful. Williams: Make sure we continue to discuss ALMA with colleagues. Remember ALMA will have a natural ramp-up period. Blain: Might be wise to tie community outreach (especially to non-millimeter community) to formal EPO effort.

5) Update on ALMA Charge I -- development budget science input (Wootten)

Subsequent to the establishment of the science working groups, the ALMA Board has reconsidered the science input process into the ALMA development budget. This issue remains open, and will be summarized by Wootten and the ASAC members.

Blain: Board wanted more thematic and less expansive input from a single committee. The original set of names will be slimmed down and the timescale somewhat expanded. Johnstone: Looking for a set of 12 people who will understand what the environment will look like in 10 years time.

6) ALMA Workshops (Baker/Indebetouw)

Update on Massive star formation workshop.

150 preregistrants, over 110 abstracts submitted; looking for a larger venue.

Begin thinking about 2009 "workshop". Evans will lead organization; starting point for discussion on topic = "Star Formation and Accretion: Bridging the Gap Between Low and High Redshift"; volunteers for a proto-SOC sought and received.

7) Date of face to face meeting, and next telecon (every second month)

  • Date of next telecon is July 18, 2008 Changed to July 25, 2008 after this telecon.
  • The date of the face to face meeting will be discussed. Possible locations: Charlottesville; Socorro; a conveniently located airport (Chicago, Denver, Washington). Also consider Albuquerque airport. Note that lots of the charges are software-related, so AOC (which also has good videoconferencing facilities) might be a reasonable option.

Supplemental Material


NRAO has given us a new set of charges, which are laid out below. Please read through them in advance of our telecon next week (January 18th at 14:00 EDT), when we will begin discussing them. Our initial focus will probably be Charges I and III, on which we need to provide input to our ASAC members before their February 1-2 face-to-face meeting in Santiago.


Charge I: The ALMA Board has charged the project to develop a long-term "ALMA Development Plan" in consultation with the international astronomy community. In response, the project has proposed a process in which the ASAC plays a prominent role in organizing discussions of the scientific drivers for ALMA in 2020. The NRAO asks the ANASAC to (a) recommend key scientific themes, as well as potential discussion participants with panchromatic expertise, which the North American ASAC members can use as input, and (b) discuss more generally how to ensure that the interests and needs of the North American community are fully taken into account within the framework of the Development Plan's evolution.

[Note that the above relates to the current ASAC Charge III, on which the ALMA board wants the ASAC response by its April meeting.]

Charge II: The NRAO asks the ANASAC to consider the issue of stimulating research in preparation for the use of ALMA, e.g., wide-field surveys to identify interesting targets, laboratory work on astro-chemistry, or theoretical work on star and galaxy formation, and how such preparatory research before ALMA is operational can be funded, as well as recommending avenues by which the NRAO or other organizations could promote such efforts.

From Andrew Blain 3/24/08

Preliminary report on ANASAC charge 2: Enabling the NA community to take full advantage of ALMA.

1) Introduction

While it is being built by people with deep knowledge of mm and submm interferometry, ALMA should advance the science interests of pretty much all the `mainstream' observational astrophysicists in the North American community. The capabilities of ALMA will enable the community to build on its varied personal archives of data and professional knowledge to advance our understanding of the Universe.

In this statement lie some important realities of bringing ALMA online. The project and its builders must reach out to the wider community, many of whom have not so far gained experience of using mm/submm-wave interferometers. The project needs to:

i) retain support for healthy funding; ensure that a dynamic team of graduate students and postdocs will be ready to descend on Early Science data.

ii) ensure that a healthy pool of potential ALMA employees are available.

Note that It is important to reach out beyond the existing centers of excellence in submm astrophysics, to ensure that the whole community is engaged. However, in terms of training, the existing facilities are crucial. In the past, the advent of new facilities has lead to the closure of the previous generation.

Bearing in mind financial constraints, it is very important that ALMA does not lead to the same collateral damage to the training and development of its users, as the commissioning of VLBA did to the radio community. While ALMA is a larger, and less-specialist instrument than VLBA, we feel strongly that the whole of the North American scientific community will benefit from a vibrant mm/submm community, which will help the wider community to benefit from ALMA's arrival. We feel that the arguments in support of ALMA are indistinguishable from the sentiments for LSST, ELTs and SKA.

2) Training requirements

Graduate student support is one area where the ALMA project could contribute to the wider community. During early science, or when carrying out archival, laboratory or theoretical work relevant to ALMA, graduate student support, allocated along the lines of the NRAO scheme that applies to GBT could be used to stimulate the interest of investigators and departments in becoming involved with ALMA, directly supporting the youngest investigators. This interest might be mercenary initially, but having a local expert learning about ALMA must be good for both the project and the community.

Ongoing support for summer schools, and support for REU programs at institutes with existing mm/submm interests would also be a useful way to involve a larger fraction of the community in ALMA-related efforts prior to full-scale operations. While the NAASC might be understaffed and overworked, an ALMA version of the VLA summer school might be a useful contribution as soon when early science gets underway.

Experienced postdocs and faculty are likely to be of great help with the commissioning of ALMA. In fact, given the difficulties with recruiting project staff, they may in fact be essential, despite sensibly being discouraged in the ALMA Operations Plan. For substantial sabbatical stays in excess of 3 months, as detailed in the Operations Plan, the Chilean ALMA operation would surely welcome assistance, if NAASC could provide support. Full support for visits by investigators to the NAASC (already in the operations plan) should be provided.

The ALMA Operations Plan details three ALMA Fellows in Chile per year, and 6+6 staff astronomers/scientists atthe NA ARC in Charlottesville means there is a heavy demand for trained postdoctoral staff. Note that the typical production of students and postdocs for CARMA and CSO since their inception has been about 6.4 per year. Including SMA, less than 10 observational/instrumental students graduate in NA per year with experience of mm/submm-wave science.

We feel that student support is likely to involve more departments with ALMA, while more senior support is likely to ensure adequate North American staffing during CSV and Early Science.

The issue of user grants to support scientific exploitation of ALMA is one where the competitiveness of US investigators could be increased. It will be important to continue to consider the needs of the community in the context of ground-based facilities at all wavelengths. Note however, that the arrival of ALMA allows a natural opportunity to investigate this issue in a timely manner.

3) Outreach and International promotion

Support for members of the North American community to attend astrophysics conferences and make presentations to emphasize the importance of ALMA could be considered. This could include both observations, and theoretical and laboratory astrophysics.

4) Leverage from other facilities

In Europe, SCUBA-2, APEX and near-IR/optical survey telescopes appear to have important roles to play in revealing ALMA sources. However, when it comes to identifying interesting targets for ALMA, the SPT/ACT, URO mm/ submm facilities, and the future space missions WISE, Herschel and Planck, along with the Spitzer archive, all have North American access and involvement. Canada is a partner in the JCMT, and thus there is direct access already to a fraction of the North American community.

Future facilities that would enable more efficient identification of sources for ALMA to study include LMT and CCAT. Existing relevant facilities that might be willing to negotiate greater North American involvement include APEX and JCMT. Commitment to involvement in new facilities must involve wide community support and approval.

Archiving of other supporting data has been suggested as a possible way to help the community exploit ALMA. At present, we feel that a National Virtual Observatory and Google are in the best position to make this kind of effort.


ANASAC considers that maintaining a healthy US mm/submm-wave community is essential to help the wider community to appreciate and benefit from the investment in ALMA.

-- ChrisCarilli - 19 May 2008

-- AlWootten - 21 May 2008

-- AndrewBaker - 23 May 2008

* Band10.pdf: Band 10 Report from R. Hills

* B7-Xpol-PrelimReport-20080221.pdf: Band 7 Cross Polarization Discussion

-- JohnHibbard - 23 May 2008

-- AndrewBaker - 26 Jul 2008
Topic revision: r3 - 2008-08-28, JohnHibbard
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