Plan for ALMA Early Science Cycle 0

7 January, 2011

The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) expects to start Early Scienceobservations (Cycle 0) on a best effort basis late in 2011 and a call for proposals will be issued at the end of the first quarter of 2011. The purpose of Early Science will be to deliver scientifically useful results to the astronomy community and to facilitate the ongoing characterization of ALMA systems and instrumentation as the capability of the array continues to grow. Early Science will not be allowed to delay unduly the construction of the full 66-antenna array, but nonetheless provides an important opportunity for first science from this cutting edge facility. Early Science will continue through Cycle 1 and until construction of the ALMA array is complete.

The first release of ALMA test data to the astronomy community will be through the Science Verification program. Science Verification will involve observations of objects designed to test ALMA systems and confirm their performance. The first data from these tests will be available by the time of the ALMA Early Science Cycle 0 Call for Proposals. Click here for more information on the Science Verification program and how to contribute

The ALMA Early Science Cycle 0 capabilities will comprise sixteen 12-m antennas, receiver bands 3, 6, 7 & 9 (wavelengths of about 3, 1.3, 0.8 and 0.45 mm), baselines up to 250m, single field imaging, and a restricted set of spectral modes chosen to meet a reasonable range of scientific goals. Additional capabilities including somewhat longer baselines, limited mosaic imaging, and some polarization capabilities, may be announced in the Call for Proposals.

ALMA Early Science Cycle 0 is expected to span 9 months. It is anticipated that 500-700 hours of array time will be available for Early Science projects. Any astronomer may submit a proposal in response to the ALMA Early Science Cycle 0 Call for Proposals. Proposals that best demonstrate and exploit the advertised ALMAEarly Science Cycle 0 capabilities, producing scientifically worthwhile results from relatively short observations (averaging a few hours), will be given preference. Proposals will be assessed by peer review, and ranked strictly on the basis of scientific quality and feasibility with respect to the (fixed) scientific capabilities offered in the formal Call for Proposals. Projects will not be carried over from Cycle 0 to later cycles (even if they have not been completed in Cycle 0), and will not establish proprietary rights beyond those provided by the ALMA data policy. Moreover, data rights of these projects cannot block later observations with enhanced capabilities.

Successful proposers for Early Science Cycle 0 will share risk with ALMA. ALMA staff will conduct quality assurance on ALMA data, and will provide reduced data products through the respective ALMA Regional Centers (ARCs). However, it cannot be guaranteed that projects will be completed or that the characterization and quality of the data and data reduction will meet the standards expected when ALMA is in full scientific operations. Proposers should anticipate that significant experience in radio (in particular, millimeter) interferometry will be an advantage in working with the data products during ALMA Early Science. PIs and observing teams should anticipate the need to invest their own time and expertise in the analysis of ALMA Early Science data products, including the possible need to visit the relevant ARC to assist with quality assurance and data reduction. Collaboration with ALMA staff members at the ARCs or JAO can be arranged for interested PIs who are concerned that they may not have the requisite experience to make full use of their ALMA data during this period.

ALMA’s Proposal Review Committee 
ALMA’s Proposal Review Committee, responsible for the overall ranking of all ALMA proposals, will be Chaired by Professor Neal Evans of the University of Texas. Professor Evans is a renowned expert in star formation and molecular clouds with an impressive track record in mm, submm and IR observational astronomy. He is a past member of the National Research Council’s Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, Past Chair of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Program Advisory Committee, and Past Chair of the ALMA Scientific Advisory Committee. Professor Evans has accepted the appointment as APRC Chair for three years, effectively covering Cycles 0, 1 and 2 of ALMA Science Operations.

The key dates in the current plans for Cycle 0 are given below. It is still possible that changes in circumstances may make it necessary to alter them.

  • 31 March 2011: CfP for ALMA Early Science Cycle 0 and release of offline Observing Tool. 
  • 1 June 2011: Opening of archive for proposal submission. 
  • 30 June 2011: Proposal Deadline. 
  • Mid-September 2011: Latest date for feedback to proposers on the results from the proposal review process. 
  • 30 September 2011: Start of ALMA Cycle 0 observing. 
  • February 2012: One month engineering shutdown. 
  • 30 June 2012: End of ALMA Cycle 0.