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Name of Collaboratory :


Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA)


URL :  

Collaboratory Status :

In Development   Start Date : 2003 End Date : Info Last Updated : Wed, Dec 8 2010 1:00am PST

Primary Collaboratory Function :

  Shared Instrument  

Secondary Collaboratory Functions :


Domain(s) :


Brief Description of the Collaboratory :


The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an international partnership between Europe, North America, East Asia and the Republic of Chile to build the largest astronomical project in existence. It is an astronomical interferometer, comprising an array of 66 12-meter and 7-meter diameter radio telescopes observing at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. It is being built on the Chajnantor plateau at 5000 meters altitude in the Atacama desert of northern Chile. ALMA is expected to provide insight on star birth during the early universe and detailed imaging of local star and planet formation. Costing more than a billion dollars, it is the most ambitious ground-based telescope currently under construction. ALMA will begin scientific observations in the second half of 2011 and is scheduled to be fully operational by the end of 2012.

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.

The ALMA regional centre (ARC) has been designed as an interface between user communities of the major contributors of the ALMA project and the JAO. Activates for operating the ARC have also divided into the three main regions involved (Europe, North America and East Asia). The European ARC (led by ESO) has been further subdivided into ARC-nodes located across Europe in Bonn-Bochum-Cologne, Bologna, Ondřejov, Onsala, IRAM (Grenoble), Leiden and JBCA (Manchester).

The core purpose of the ARC is to: assist the user community with the preparation of observing proposals, ensure observing programs meet their scientific goals efficiently, run a help-desk for submitting proposals and observing programs, delivering the data to principal investigators, maintenance of the ALMA data archive, assistance with the calibration of data and providing user feedback.


Access to Instruments :

  10% of observation time will be allocated for the host country, Chile, and 90% for the partners according to their financial contribution to ALMA. Though they will publicly accept research projects from researchers worldwide, special consideration will be paid for the researchers of countries financing the project.

The scientists will compete for observing time by submitting proposals, which will be judged on the basis of scientific merit. Users will not travel to Chajnantor to carry out the observations. Instead, observations will be dynamically scheduled, depending on weather conditions and the array configuration. Observations will be carried out 24 hours per day by ALMA astronomers.

Each of three parties may be individually given the right to decide the time allocation, but some key projects may be launched for international coordination regarding the important projects such as galaxy formation and planetary accretion.

Access to Information Resources :

  The data produced during an ALMA observing run, as well as their calibrations, will be stored in the ALMA Archive. All ALMA scientific data will be subjected to a proprietary period of one year since the date when they were distributed to the Principal Investigator. After the proprietary period, the data will become public and any investigator can retrieve them by means of an archive request.  

Access to People as Resources :


Funding Agency or Sponsor :

Academia Sinica
Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)
European Southern Observatory (ESO)
Institut National des Sciences de l'Univers (INSU)
National Institutes of Natural Sciences
National Research Council Canada
National Science Council of Taiwan
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Republic of Chile

Notes on Funding Agencies/Sponsors:
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.

Organizations with Funded Participants:
Organization name:
Approx # of participants:
Description of organization's role(s):
Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS)
European Southern Observatory (ESO)
Leads ALMA construction and operations on behalf of Europe; Hosts the European ALMA Regional Center; ALMA Board
National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)
Leads ALMA construction and operations on behalf of North America; Hosts North American ALMA Science Center; ALMA Board
National Research Council Canada
   NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics
ALMA Band 3 Receivers; ALMA Board
Organizations with Un-Funded Participants:
Organization name:
Approx # of participants:
Description of organization's role(s):
Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Hosts the Czech node of Alma Regional Center at the Ondrejov Observatory.
Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique (IRAM)
Hosts IRAM node of the Alma Researc Center in Grenoble, France.
Istituto di Radioastronomia (IRA)
Hosts Italian node of the Alma Regional Center in Bologna, Italy.
Leiden Observatory
Hosts Dutch node of the Alma Regional Center in Leiden, Netherlands (Allegro); ALMA Board
Onsala Space Observatory
Hosts Nordic node of Alma Regional Center in Gothenburg, Sweden
University of Manchester
Hosts the UK node of the Alma Regional Center

Notes on Participants/Organizations:
The ALMA Board, consisting of members representing the partners, has created the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) in Chile. The JAO is responsible for the overall leadership and management of construction, commissioning and operations of ALMA. The JAO is located in Santiago (Chile) and synchronizes activities of the Executives in Europe, North America and Japan, as well as on the ALMA site near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. One of the most important responsibilities of the JAO is the management and organisation of the Assembly, Integration, Verification and Commissioning (AIVC) of the telescopes in Chile.

The Executives of the three partners have each created an ALMA Regional Center (ARC) to interface between ALMA and the astronomy community. The ALMA activities of each Executive are managed by an ALMA Project Office, located at ESO in Garching (Germany) for the European partners of ALMA, at NRAO in Charlottesville (USA) for the North American partners, and NAOJ in Mitaka (Japan) for the Japanese partners.

Each Project Office is led by an Executive ALMA Project Manager. He is supported by the Executive ALMA Project Scientist, a Management Team, and several Integrated Product Team (IPT) Leaders. The IPT Leaders direct their team of engineers and scientists for the various subsystems of the ALMA Project. These three Project Offices collaborate closely with each other, not only at the level of the Executive’s Project Managers, but also the Management Teams and IPT Leaders. In addition, the ALMA Project Manager and his team at the JAO coordinate overall aspects of the project.

Besides the management, described above, which deals with all operational aspects of the construction on a day to day timescale, there are several external (independent) advisory bodies, dealing, for example, with scientific, technical, personnel, financial, management, and organisational issues. The various ALMA boards and committees deal in some cases with overall aspects of ALMA, in other cases also with regional aspects related to the specific circumstances of the respective Executives.

At present there are:

* The ALMA Management Advisory Committee (AMAC)
* The ALMA Scientific Advisory Committee (ASAC)
* The ALMA North American Scientific Advisory Committee (ANASAC)
* The ALMA European Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC)
* The ALMA East Asian Scientific Advisory Committee (EASAC)


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