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Allegro: 2021 look-back and upcoming year

As the pandemic continued throughout 2021, the Allegro staff also continued working from home for most of the year. However, despite of this, the group remained operational with activities divided into three main categories:

  • user support (e.g., contact scientist activities, face-to-face requests and training events)
  • development of expertise areas
  • carrying out independent scientific research.

It is particularly worth noting that Allegro had a full staff turnover in the past two years! With the exception of Michiel Hogerheijde (the Program Director) a whole new team was formed between 2020 and 2021, with the last three group members joining just over one year ago. This means that a good part of this year was dedicated to defining our internal workflows, updating our documentation and why not, getting to know each other (over Zoom!).

We would like to highlight here some of the most outstanding activities of Allegro from 2021, starting with our community events: we carried out a proposal preparation day in March and two Science Days and CASA training days in January and November. We featured presentations from the broad ALMA science community in the Netherlands, and also carried out dedicated trainings with hands-on components (for the most recent one, please read more here). Note that you can find recording of all these events on our Allegro YouTube channel and please remember to subscribe!

As mentioned previously, our Allegro postdocs also spend a significant fraction of their time on expertise areas. For 2021, most notably, we would like to mention two of those projects which were finalized this year: an easy-to-use and flexible-to-be-customized ALMA archival search tool, called ALminer¹ and a new ALMA tracker² (aka, the Dashboard) which is already being used by most of the EU ARC nodes to keep a regular overview of ALMA projects in the current queue, with data directly imported from the telescope.

As a look forward in 2022, we would like to advertise two very exciting new activities led by Allegro. The first is an outreach program in collaboration with the Leiden City of Science program and the Old Observatory: we will create a virtual ALMA telescope within the city of Leiden and demonstrate how large ALMA really is but also how interferometry works. Our program will also feature special Leiden walks, and games!

The second new activity will involve students at other Universities, who will be our new emissaries and will be kept “in the know” about ALMA-related activities throughout the year. More information will be distributed in the next newsletter, so please stay tuned to find out more!

We also continued to help our users with their approved projects and with their ALMA data as needed. You can contact us at any time at


¹ALminer was developed by Aida Ahmadi in collaboration with Alvaro Hacar.

²The ALMA tracker was developed by Andres Pérez Sánchez in collaboration with Carmen Toribio Perez.

Night picture of the ALMA array

The end of ALMA Cycle 7 and start of Cycle 8 2021 science observations

After a one-year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ALMA Cycle 7 science observations resumed on March 17, 2021, on a best-effort basis using 30-some antennas on the 12-m Array while the Array recovery was ongoing. Science observations with the Morita Array (ACA) restarted on May 18, 2021, using eight antennas. While some delays were encountered in the antenna configuration schedule due to bad weather and the pandemic affecting the maximum staffing levels at the site, the 12-m Array was successfully relocated to a hybrid configuration 9/10 by September, enabling the highest angular resolution observations in Cycle 7. The Array then moved back to configuration 8 by the start of Cycle 8 2021, facilitating a smooth transition to the start of the new cycle on October 1st.

With the start of Cycle 8 2021, 253 high-priority programs (Grades A & B) were added to the queue. The Cycle 8 call for proposals saw a total of 1735 proposals submitted requesting over 26,000 hours on the 12-m Array, exceeding the time requested in Cycle 7 by an extraordinary 37% and making this cycle the most competitive one to date. With the observatory encouraging larger, more ambitious programs, the number of proposals that requested between 25 and 50 hours roughly doubled and the number of Large Programs submitted increased to 40 in Cycle 8 from 14 in Cycle 7. Six Large Programs were selected to be carried out in Cycle 8, ranging in topics from exoplanets and the evolution of protoplanetary disks, the dynamics of the southern Bulge and central molecular zone of our galaxy, to nearby Jellyfish and ram pressure stripped galaxies and star-forming galaxies at z~4-5.

The ALMA Cycle 8 proposal call and review process was unique in many aspects. For the first time, proposals had to be written in a dual-anonymous fashion, hiding the identity of the proposal team from the reviewers, to reduce biases and make the review process as fair as possible. Of the 1735 proposals that were submitted, only nine had to be rejected because of not adhering to the guidelines. Furthermore, proposals requesting less than 25 hours on the 12-m Array or less than 150 hours on the Morita Array (ACA) were reviewed using a distributed peer review process. This meant the PIs were asked to review 10 proposals for every proposal submitted, with the option to delegate the review to a co-I. With this new system, more than one thousand astronomers reviewed a total of 1497 proposals. Moreover, dedicated review panels met virtually in the summer to discuss the proposals requesting between 25 and 50 hours on the 12-m Array and the Large Programs. Overall, the feedback on the newly-introduced dual-anonymous proposal review and distributed peer review have been overwhelmingly positive.

For a more detailed report on the outcome of the ALMA Cycle 8 2021 proposal review, see

Group photo - 5th Netherlands ALMA Science day

5th Netherlands ALMA Science day recap

The 5th Netherlands ALMA Science day was hosted by the Allegro team on the 29th November, 2021. For the second time in a row this was a fully on-line version.

The scientific program included invited and contributed talks highlighting results of projects with all or part of the data taken by the ALMA telescope. The invited speakers for this special day were Dr. Alice Booth (Leiden Observatory – The Netherlands), Dr. Eva Schinnerer (MPIA – Germany), and Dr. Gergö Popping (ESO – Germany).

They presented results from ALMA observations of molecular gas: Dr. Booth presented results from deep observations of molecular gas at planet-forming scales taken with ALMA, showing both spatial distribution and the kinematics of the molecular gas detected. Later on, Dr. Schinnerer presented results from high resolution observations of nearby massive star-forming galaxies, and the analysis of a multi-wavelength data set including ALMA observations.

Then, Dr. Popping presented the current status of the ALMA telescope, including a summary of the return-to-science-operation-process, the end of Cycle 7 and the beginning of Cycle 8, as well as results of the analysis from the Proposal handling team of the proposal review process for ALMA observing Cycle 8.

Moreover, the program included 10 contributed talks by researchers from MPIfR, Leiden Observatory, ASTRON & Kapteyn Astronomical Institute. The contributed talks spanned over topics, frequencies (wavelengths), and spatial scales: Results from measurements towards the gaps of planet-forming disks to observations of molecular gas interacting in the circumnuclear disk of Active Galactic Nuclei using ALMA and also MATISSE were presented. The program also had contributed talks showing results of observations of high-z, massive, and active ultra luminous infrared galaxies or zooming in on the environment around the most famous black hole thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope project.

In total, approximately 35 participants (researchers and graduate students) from different institutions, including University of Groningen, KU Leuven, Nicolas Copernicus University, University of Amsterdam, SRON, ASTRON, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, Leiden Observatory, and the Max Plank Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), and National Institute of Science Education and Research (India), attended the science talks, discussion and virtual social program organized by the Allegro Team.

P.d. The records of the Science day will be edited and made available for public access on the Allegro social media channels.

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ALMA data reduction training day November 2021 recap

Allegro hosted an online data reduction training day on November 30th 2021 for 27 registered participants from the Netherlands and, thanks to the virtual format, further afield. On the day, Allegro fellows gave talks on accessing data from the ALMA archive and how to calibrate, image, self-calibrate and analyse that data as well as how to simulate ALMA observations. Following these talks, participants were coached to work with an ALMA test dataset in a hands-on session. After being shown the basics of CASA, participants were guided through inspecting, imaging and self-calibrating the test dataset and subsequently analysing it with CASA. The full programme is available at Slides and recordings of the talks will also be posted to this website in the new year.

12CO gas surround the AGN jet

Science Highlight: An AGN jet pushing around interstellar gas

Using Cycle 6 ALMA observations of the far-infrared bright radio galaxy PKS0023-26, Morganti et al. study the impact of the jet that is driven by the black hole powering the Active Galactic Nucleus on the interstellar gas. The 0.13-0.4” resolution images of 1.7 mm continuum and 12CO(2-1) emission reveal that the jet only strongly perturbs the inner sub-kpc regions. On scales of a few kpc, the action is limited to a more gentle “pushing aside” of the gas. Currently, this galaxy is forming stars at a clip pace of 25 Msun/year; in another few x 107 year, this rate may drop as the jet and lobes have expanded across the galaxy. This works shows that the feedback of the AGN on galaxy ISM and star formation acts on long time scales. The results will be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics and are already available on arXiv.