ALMA Trilateral Agreement Signing Ceremony
The ALMA Trilateral Agreement was signed by Tim de Zeeuw, the Director General of ESO, Katsuhiko Sato, the President of NINS, and F. Fleming Crim, the Assistant Director of NSF on behalf of France A. Córdova, the Director of NSF. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

ALMA Trilateral Agreement Signing Ceremony

18 December, 2015 / Read time: 4 minutes

On December 15, 2015, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan (NINS), the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) signed an agreement concerning the operations of ALMA. The new agreement signed in Tokyo provides the framework for the long-lasting operations of ALMA over the next 20 years.

“As NINS, we have responsibility to fulfill our commitment to the operations of ALMA as a party of this agreement.”, told Katsuhiko Sato, the president of NINS, in his speech in the signing ceremony. “We hope our contributions could lead to significant scientific results with ALMA. And, our contributions will be beneficial to global advances in understanding the physics of the Universe as stated in the agreement.”

The first resolution for ALMA was concluded at the ALMA Coordination Committee meeting held in Tokyo in 2001. This was the formal start of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array as an international collaboration project between Japan, US, and Europe. The ALMA construction budgets were approved in US and Europe in 2001 and 2002 respectively. While the budget in Japan was yet to be approved at that time, NSF and ESO signed a bilateral agreement in 2003 and started construction of ALMA. Japan finally secured the budget in 2004 and joined the project by signing an agreement for the construction of the enhanced ALMA. Japan brought an enhanced capability of submillimeter observations and “Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array” was realized.

“Big telescopes demand big partnerships,” said Dr. Córdova, the director of NSF in her video message for the ceremony. “Today's new trilateral agreement is evidence of that commitment. We mark a point when ALMA's future is made brighter because of our three organizations' zeal to learn more about the Universe where we all live.”



Participants of the ALMA Trilateral Agreement Signing Ceremony. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

Participants of the ALMA Trilateral Agreement Signing Ceremony. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

“The ALMA conference which took place in Tokyo last year demonstrated that the dream of a truly transformational facility for astronomy has become a reality,” told Tim de Zeeuw, the Director General of ESO. “I am certain that the power and efficiency of the facility will continue to increase in the years to come. It is a testimony to the visionary and motivated individuals who laid the groundwork more than three decades ago, and turned it onto a reality.”.

The construction and development of ALMA and initial observations have been carried out based on the agreement signed in 2004. With an inauguration ceremony held in 2013, ALMA formally became a fully-fledged observatory. A new agreement focusing on science operations have been prepared since then, and signed this time by Sato, de Zeeuw and F. Fleming Crim, the assistant director of NSF on behalf of France A. Córdova.

The new agreement signals the continuing trust and cooperation between ESO, NSF and NINS as ALMA makes the transition from construction into full science operations that are expected to last over three decades.

Additional information

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its Member States, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI).

ALMA construction and operations are led by ESO on behalf of its Member States; by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), on behalf of North America; and by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) on behalf of East Asia. The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.


Nicolás Lira T.
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Joint ALMA Observatory
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Masaaki Hiramatsu
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Observatory Tokyo, Japan
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National Radio Astronomy Observatory
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