The Atacama large millimeter/submillimeter array (ALMA)

The Atacama large millimeter/submillimeter array (ALMA), an international research facility, is a single telescope which, when completed in late 2013, will be composed of 66 reconfigurable high-precision antennas, located on the Chajnantor plain of the Chilean Andes at an elevation of about 5000 metres and at a latitude of -23°. ALMA is a complete imaging and spectroscopic instrument for the millimetre/submillimetre regime, providing scientists with capabilities and wavelength coverage which complement those of other research facilities of its era, such as the Jansky very large array, James Webb Space Telescope, and planned extremely-large-aperture optical telescopes. ALMA enables transformational research into the physics of the cold universe, regions that are optically dark but emit strongly in the millimetre portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Providing astronomers a new window on celestial origins, ALMA probes the first stars and galaxies and directly images the disks in which planets are forming.

Early science with ALMA

Though the construction phase of ALMA will not be completed until 2013, by late 2011 the facility was already the world’s most powerful millimetre/submillimetre telescope. The astronomical community has been given the opportunity to use the facility with reduced (but still substantial) capability, in Early Science mode. The Joint ALMA observatory(JAO), which operates ALMA, periodically issues a Call for proposals inviting astronomers to apply for observations using ALMA.

Applying for ALMA observations, and other Information

Calls for Proposals (CfP) are issued by the JAO periodically, approximately once per year. The ALMA Regional Centers (ARCs) are responsible for alerting their respective astronomical communities of the call. To receive notification of future CfPs, please register with the ALMA Science Portal (SP).

The SP is the main portal of information for astronomers/astrophysicists. Through the Science portal, astronomers link to their respective ARC; astronomers at Canadian institutions are supported by the North American ALMA Research Center (NAASC) in Charlottesville, VA, with additional support from NRC Herzberg in Victoria, BC. Other ARCs are located in Europe and East Asia. The SP provides information on the facility, its capabilities, on calls for proposals, and links to documentation, including the ALMA Primer which provides an introduction to ALMA and is produced by NRC Herzberg for the ALMA partnership. To use the ALMA Helpdesk, or to submit (or co-author) a proposal, the user must register with the SP.

ALMA also has a public website, with links to images, videos, press releases, and other information for a general audience.

The International ALMA partnership

ALMA, an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European organization for astronomical research in the Southern hemisphere (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National science foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National research council of Canada (NRC) and the National science council of Taiwan (NSC), and in East Asia by the National institutes of natural sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National radio astronomy observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National astronomical observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The joint ALMA observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning, and operation of ALMA.

Canada’s involvement with ALMA

Canada is a partner, with the United States, in the North american executive of ALMA, which gives astronomers at Canadian institutions access to the North American portion of ALMA time (approximately 37%). NRC Herzberg was responsible for the development and production of the ALMA band 3 (3mm) receiver, which has been the workhorse instrument for the facility. NRC Herzberg is also playing a significant role in the development of the proposed Band 1 receiver. In addition to direct financial support of Chilean operations, Canada through NRC Herzberg provides in-kind support of the NAASC, including hardware maintenance, software, direct user support, production of the ALMA primer, data reduction, and operations duties. Canadian astronomers who would like assistance with proposal preparation, data reduction, etc., either face-to-face or remotely, are welcome to request assistance either through the helpdesk or via the contact below.


Gerald Schieven
5071 West Saanich Road
Room 313
Victoria, British Columbia V9E 2E7

Telephone: 250-363-6919
Fax: 250-363-0045