Based on the existing support activities for the NOEMA interferometer and on the involvement of the institute in the ALMA construction, IRAM has established an ALMA user support center which forms a node of the European ALMA Regional Center (ARC).

The ALMA Regional Centers are the main contact point between the ALMA observatory and the astronomers throughout the lifetime of a project. The scientists interact with the ARC to submit proposals and define the observing procedures of the accepted projects. After the observations, the ALMA users obtain their data from the archive through the ARC, and get support, including face-to-face, for the data reduction and analysis. The observations themselves are performed in a service mode only, just like at the NOEMA observatory: the astronomers whose projects have been accepted are not going to travel to Chile. Instead, the observations are performed by the ALMA staff, using an optimized scheduling of the array.

Each ALMA partner (Europe, North-America, and Eastern-Asia) has established an ARC to serve its community. The European ARC is organized as a network, consisting of the ARC core, located at ESO Garching and six scientific support nodes hosted by European institutes, including IRAM.

The European ARC core at ESO is in charge of handling proposals, operating the ALMA archive, and distributing the data. The role of the IRAM ARC node is somewhat different and includes:

  • User formation: using the NOEMA interferometer is certainly the best possible way to be prepared for ALMA! IRAM is also organizing a series of very successful millimeter interferometry schools.
  • User support: Face-to-face support for data reduction is one of our key goals: such support has proven to be instrumental in maximizing the scientific output of new instruments. It will be organized following the procedures that have been developed for the NOEMA face-to-face support, with a team of astronomers expert in the ALMA instrument and software.
  • Expertise center: IRAM is involved in ALMA-related software developments (e.g. Telescope Calibration) and intends to continue developing that expertise. A number of ALMA-specific software tools are and will be developed at IRAM.

The ARC node is a new service provided by IRAM which is open to all interested scientists, with special emphasis on the German, French and Spanish communities. ALMA is a global instrument, open to the world-wide community and an extremely difficult competition is going on to obtain observing time. We hope that the IRAM user community, having access to the NOEMA interferometer and to the ARC node, will be in the best possible position to get time on ALMA and maximize the scientific output of this instrument.


Visiting astronomers reducing data at IRAM