As ALMA moves steadily towards its operational phase, things are getting busier in the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC). We are supporting a limited beta release of the CASA software, helping staff the ALMATest Facility in Socorro, testing the major ALMA user software systems, and preparing for participation in Commissioning and Science Verification (CSV) in Chile early next year. To support these commitments, we expect to hire three Assistant Scientists into the NAASC, two for CSV-liaison and one for CASA development and support. We are also recruiting an ALMA EPO Program Officer to prepare a public outreach program commensurate with ALMA’s broad appeal and scientific promise. In the coming year, ALMA Chilean Operations will also be hiring a significant number of operations staff, including several astronomers.
We are preparing for the science use of ALMA, both in our web presence and in tools. To this end, the NAASC staff is working with NRAO EPO on our science-based web interface. NAASC staff also visited the Space Telescope Science Institute for an overview and discussion of their science user support activities. Similar input was received from the Spitzer Science Center Observer Support Team. The lessons learned from these preeminent science user facilities will guide us as we work towards our user support implementation plans. Concerning user tools, the NAASC supported on-line spectral line database “Splatalog” had its beta release earlier this year, as described in an accompanying article. And the NAASC staff continues to be involved in extensive testing and training for the CASA data reduction package. The initial deployment of the first Beta CASA release to members of several ALMA science advisory committees including the ALMA North American Science Advisory Committee (ANASAC), as well as the inauguration of our CASA helpdesk system over the last few months has been successful. The feedback we have received from this process has been very useful in refining our development plans. We expect to offer CASA tutorials at the upcoming Eleventh Synthesis Imaging Summer School and to make the package available as a Beta release to the astronomical community this summer.
The NA ARC (a subset of the NAASC) hosted the international Science Operations IPT meeting in Charlottesville from February 26–27. This meeting brings together staff from the ALMA Regional Centers in East Asia, Europe and North America, and the Joint ALMA Observatory in Chile, with the goal of coordinating and prioritizing work towards successful ALMA operations. Work concentrated on developing the Operations implementation plans, and ALMA-wide hiring. This was the last meeting of the group lead by outgoing JAO Director Massimo Tarenghi. This group has been instrumental in developing the ALMA Operations Plan, which was successfully presented to an international review committee exactly a year ago to the day. Our grueling day-long meetings were followed by pleasant evenings celebrating what has proven to be a most productive and enjoyable international collaboration.
The NAASC AD’s office is preparing material on ALMA operations for the on-going AUI operations review, as well as for the up-coming Visiting and Users Committee meetings. We have also sent the revised version of the MOU with Canada on ALMA operations to HIA for final comment.
We are in the process of organizing the 3rd annual NAASC science workshop in collaboration with the ANASAC. This year’s workshop will be on the topic of ‘Massive Star Formation Within and Beyond the Galaxy’ and it will be held in Charlottesville September 25–27, 2008. Please see the accompanying Newsletter article for more details. The ANASAC is also considering scientific input into the ALMA development plan.
Finally, NAASC staff have visited a number of institutions and presented summaries of ALMA science and status. If your institution is interested in having an NRAO staff member visit and discuss ALMA, please contact Chris Carilli