Where do local users of ALMA live and work?

Where do local users of ALMA live and work?

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These days with high speed internet, observational astronomy can be done from remote locations. Still I believe from time to time an experimenter might travel to work on-site for particularly challenging or unusual/non-standard observations, where working closely with the instrument support team is necessary.

When astronomers travel to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array or ALMA:

  1. Where do they live?
  2. Where do they work during observing sessions?

Representative photos would be greatly appreciated!

I'm guessing it looks a little different than this:

Source: Cropped from Apertif - the focal-plane array system for the WSRT

Figure 2. The WSRT telescope RT5 equipped with the APERTIF prototype. Shown in the inserts is the Vivaldi array in the lab (top right) and in the focal plane of the telescope (bottom right).

No one travels to ALMA to observe; the observations are all carried out by staff working at the Operations Support Facility. (This is at an altitude of 2900 meters; the actual telescopes are 28 km away at the Array Operations Site, which is at an altitude of 5000 meters and is not permanently staffed.) Any "unusual/non-standard observations" would have to be specified in advance and encoded into the Scheduling Blocks (prepared files specifying the observations you want).

I believe the staff at the Operations Support Facility stays in the Residencia. (More pictures here and here; pictures of the OSF, including the telescope control room, can be found here.)

(I wonder if some future movie will film scenes there, as the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace did at the Paranal Observatory's Residencia in 2008… )

Visitors (who cannot stay overnight) are permitted on Saturdays and Sundays, though you have reserve your visit in advance.

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Editing Users

  • For internal users, you can edit all user record fields.
  • External users are maintained in an external system, such as SIS (Student Information System). For external users:
    • You can edit only certain fields in the General Information tab of the User Details page.
    • You can add contact information in the Contact Information tab, but cannot edit information there.
    1. On the Find and Manage Users page, select Edit in the row actions list or select the user&rsquos name. The User Details page appears.

    • Website URL - The user's website.
    • Status - Whether the user is Active or Inactive .
    • Status date - The date on which the user was registered or the date of the user's last status change.
    • Send Message - Select the type of message you'd like to send.
    • General - This sends a general message. Select Compose to open the E-mail Message pop-up window, where you can configure an email to send to the user with any questions, issues, or notifications. Fill in the fields and select Send E-Mail to send the message. (For more information on the letters, see Configuring Alma Letters. To configure the default From: address of this email, see the parameters disable_from_address and from_address in Configuring Other Settings. To send emails to users in bulk see Editing/Messaging Users in Bulk.)
    • Social Login Mail - This sends a letter containing information to activate login to Primo/Alma with a social network. This option appears if an integration profile is defined for a social network. The letter used is the Social Login Invite Letter. For more information on this integration profile, see Configuring Integration Profiles.
    The Created By and Updated By fields have been moved to an information box that is accessed by selecting the icon on the top right corner of the page. The information box also includes Created Date , Last Updated Date , and Last Updated by Job
    • Contact Information &ndash See Managing User Contact Information.
    • Identifiers (not available for Contact users) &ndash See Managing User Identifiers.
    • Notes &ndash See Managing User Notes.
    • Blocks (not available for Contact users) &ndash See Blocking and Unblocking Users.
    • Fines/Fees (available only for users with the Patron role) &ndash See Managing User Fines and Fees.
    • Statistics &ndash See Managing User Statistics.
    • Attachments &ndash See Managing User Attachments.
    • Proxy For &ndash See Managing Proxy Users
    • History - See Viewing Changes to the User Record.
    • The Identifiers and Blocks tabs are not available for Contact users.
    • The Fines/Fees tab is available only if the user has been assigned the Patron role (see Managing User Roles).
    • Demerits information appears only when enabled by Ex Libris and only for the following roles: Circulation Desk Operator, Circulation Desk Operator - Limited, Circulation Desk Manager, Fulfillment Services Operator, Fulfillment Services Manager, Fulfillment Administrator. To enable demerits information, contact Ex Libris Support. For more information on demerits, see Configuring Demerits.

    Managing User Contact Information

    • Integration profiles require one of the following phone/email types (for informational purposes only): Error handling and General . For information on configuring job email notifications, see Configuring Email Notifications for Scheduled Jobs.

    1. In the Contact Information tab of the User Details page ( Admin > User Management > Manage Users select Edit in the row actions list), select Add Address , Add Phone Number , or Add Email Address . The relevant dialog box opens.
    2. Enter the contact details, as required.

    Note that you can set the address, phone number, and email address as preferred in this step, as shown below:

    • Select Add to save the details and add additional entries.
    • Select Add and Close to save the address details and exit the dialog box.

    Managing User Identifiers (Tab)

    • Identifier Type - The type of identifier. Ex Libris creates and configures the types when setting up your institution. In addition to social media options, other options include barcode and institution ID (the ID assigned to the user from an SIS see Student Information Systems). This list may be different for staff and public users.
    • Value - The value of the identifier for this user.
    • Note - An optional note.
    • All primary and additional identifiers must be unique for users, including for the same user.
    • User identifiers associated with social logins (Twitter, Google, and Facebook) do not appear in this tab, even if they are defined for the user. They still exist: they can be used to login using the social login page (see Social and Email Login), and you can search for the user using the identifier.
    • When working with an external user, the Add as an external check box appears. Select to add the identifier as external data which is overwritten during SIS synchronization. If you do not select this option, the identifier is added as internal data and is not overwritten during SIS synchronization (unless the same value is later sent by the SIS, in which case the identifier is marked as external). For more information, see
    • When defined by Ex Libris, some identifiers must be unique across the institution in order for the user to be able to log in to Alma or Primo.
    • When saving external data, a green check mark appears on the in the External Data column.
    • When a user is changed from internal to external, all internal identifiers become external.

    Managing User Notes

    1. In the Notes tab, select Add Note . The Add Note dialog box appears.
    2. Enter the text for the note in the Note field.
    3. In Type , select a note type. The types of notes are for informational purposes only and do not serve a functional purpose in Alma. The list of note types is standard across all institutions.
    4. Pop up note to make the note pop up when the user record is displayed in the Manage Patron Services page.
    5. Select User viewable to enable the indicated user to view the note.
    • Select Add to save the note details and add additional notes.
    • Select Add and Close to save note details and close the Add Note dialog box.

    Blocking and Unblocking Users

    The Blocks tab is not available for Contact users.

    • Block description - The block type. This list is pre-configured by Ex Libris.
    • Expiry Date - An optional date when the block will be lifted.
    • Note - An optional note.
    • When working with an external user, the Add as an external check box appears. Select this option to add the block as external data which is overwritten during SIS synchronization. If you do not select this option, the block is added as internal data and is not overwritten during SIS synchronization. For more information, see
    • a user has an active block, a check mark appears in the Blocks column on the Manage Users page for that user.
    • When saving external data, a green check mark appears in the External Data column.

    Managing User Fines and Fees

    Users can select fines and fees across the full paginated fees list (among multiple pages) and waive them by selecting the Waive All option in the Fines/Fees tab.

    It is not possible to waive more than 100 selected fees in one action.

    • Active Balance: The balance of fines and fees. This may include transferred balance depending on the include_transferred_finesfees_in_alma_limits parameter. See Configuring Other Settings (Fulfillment).
    • Currently Filtered Balance: The balance of fines and fees that are currently filtered due to your selections in the filters.
    • Disputed Balance: The balance of disputed fines and fees.
    • Currently Filtered Disputed Balance: The balance of disputed fines and fees that are currently filtered due to your selections in the filters.
    • Transferred Balance: When bursar fees are set to Exported status, they appear as transferred balances.
    • Creation Date
    • Fine/Fee Type
    • Status
    • Status Date
    • Comment
    • Fee Owner
    • Title
    • Item Barcode
    • Original Amount
    • Remaining Balance
    • Original VAT
    • Remaining VAT
    • Bursar Transaction ID - see Configuring Bursar Transaction IDs.
    • Waive Reasons
    • Is not included in the user&rsquos Active Balance
    • Is not displayed on the list of fines in Primo
    • Is not factored when invoking a block based on the amount due.
    • A patron cannot borrow items when the amount they owe is $100 or greater
    • The patron owes $100, but has disputed $20 of that amount
    • Alma views the patron as owing $80, and the block is not invoked
    1. In the Fines/Fees tab, select Add Fine or Fee . The Add Fine or Fee dialog box appears.
    2. Select the fine/fee type. The types are those configured for manual creation on the Fine Fee Type Definition mapping table see Configuring Fines/Fees Behavior.
    3. Select the owning library or institution. Libraries are selectable only if the fee type has been defined as 'allow a library scope'.
    4. Enter the amount of the fine or fee.
    5. In the Item barcode field, browse for the item to which you want to attach the fee, as required.
    • Select Add to save the fine or fee details and add additional fines or fees.
    • Select Add and Close to save fine or fee details and close the Add Fine or Fee dialog box.
    1. In the Fines and Fees tab of the User Details page, select Link to Item in the row actions list for a Fine/Fee. The Link to Item page appears.
    2. In the Item barcode field, browse for the item to which you want to attach the fee.
    3. Select Link to Item . The Title and Item Barcode column values on the Fines and Fees Details page update accordingly.

    In the Fines/Fees tab, select the fines/fees you want to waive and select View Loan in the row actions list. The Loan Audit Trail page appears. For more information, see Viewing Loan History.

    1. In the Fines/Fees tab, select the fines/fees you want to waive and select Waive Selected in the table actions list. Alternately, select Waive in the row actions list for the fine/fee that you want to waive. The Waiving Fine/Fee page appears.

    1. Select Dispute in the row actions list for the fine or fee that you want to dispute. The Dispute Fine/Fee page appears.
    2. Enter any text/comment for disputing the fine/fee in the Comment field.
    3. Select Dispute and select Confirm in the confirmation dialog box. The balances shown in the Fees and Fines Summary area for Active balance and Disputed balance are updated.
    1. Select Restore in the row actions list for the disputed fine or fee that you want to restore (ensure the Status filter is set to All or In Dispute ). The Restore a Fine or Fee page appears.

    Managing User Statistics

    • Category type - Category types are predefined by a system administrator in the Statistical Categories Types mapping table (see Creating Statistical Category Types).
    • Statistical category - Statistical categories are predefined by a system administrator in the Statistical Categories context of User Management Configuration (see Configuring Statistical Categories).
    • Note - Add a note as required.
    • When working with an external user, the Add as an external check box appears. Select this option to add the statistical category as external data which is overwritten during SIS synchronization. If you do not select this option, the statistical category is added as internal data and is not overwritten during SIS synchronization (unless the same value is later sent by the SIS, in which case the statistical category is marked as external). For more information, see
    • When saving external data, a green check mark appears on the in the External Data column.

    Managing User Attachments

    Managing Proxy Users

    1. Open the Proxy For tab of the User Details page. Select Add Proxy For .
    2. In the Proxy for field, enter or select the patron for whom you want the current user to be a proxy.
    3. Select Add User . The patron is added the user is now a proxy for this patron.

    Viewing Changes to the User Record

    Managing Courses

    (Leganto only) The Courses tab allows you to view all courses to which a student has enrolled and to delete specific courses or all courses to which a student has enrolled.

    For information on how to load user enrollment information, see Configuring Importing Course Enrollment Jobs.

    Conflict criteria

    The goal of the review assignments is to provide informed, unbiased assessments of the proposals. In general, a reviewer has a major conflict of interest when their personal or work interests would benefit if the proposal under review is accepted or rejected.

    There are several ways that JAO will automatically identify major conflicts of interest based on the following criteria 1 :

    • The PI, reviewer, or mentor of the submitted proposal is a PI or co-I of the proposal to be reviewed.
    • The PI, reviewer, or mentor of the submitted proposal and the PI of the proposal to be reviewed have been collaborators on any proposal submitted in recent cycles or in the current cycle.
    • The PI, reviewer, or mentor of the submitted proposal is at the same institution as the PI on the proposal to be reviewed.

    Each reviewer has the responsibility to identify other conflicts of interest that were not automatically detected by the JAO. Reviewers should inform the JAO PHT of any major conflict of interest in their assignments using the Reviewer Tool (for distributed peer review) or the Assessor Tool (for the panel review). In addition to the above criteria, a major conflict of interest occurs when:

    • The reviewer is proposing to observe the same object(s) with similar science objectives.
    • The reviewer has close personal ties (e.g., family member, partner) to the proposal, that can be clearly recognized even though the proposal is anonymized.
    • The reviewer had provided significant advice to the proposal team on the proposal even though they are not listed as an investigator.

    A student reviewer participating in the distributed peer review must declare any conflict that applies to either themselves or the mentor. Please work with the mentor to ensure that the conflicts of interest are identified accurately.

    Reviewers who identify a major conflict of interest in their review assignments should reject the considered proposal and indicate why they believe a major conflict of interest exists. The PHT will evaluate the reported conflict(s) and, if it is approved, assign a different proposal(s) to the reviewer.

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    ALMA spots most distant dusty galaxy hidden in plain sight

    Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have spotted the light of a massive galaxy seen only 970 million years after the Big Bang. This galaxy, called MAMBO-9, is the most distant dusty star-forming galaxy that has ever been observed without the help of a gravitational lens.

    Dusty star-forming galaxies are the most intense stellar nurseries in the universe. They form stars at a rate up to a few thousand times the mass of the Sun per year (the star-forming rate of our Milky Way is just three solar masses per year) and they contain massive amounts of gas and dust. Such monster galaxies are not expected to have formed early in the history of the universe, but astronomers have already discovered several of them as seen when the cosmos was less than a billion years old. One of them is galaxy SPT0311-58, which ALMA observed in 2018.

    Because of their extreme behavior, astronomers think that these dusty galaxies play an important role in the evolution of the universe. But finding them is easier said than done. "These galaxies tend to hide in plain sight," said Caitlin Casey of the University of Texas at Austin and lead author of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal. "We know they are out there, but they are not easy to find because their starlight is hidden in clouds of dust."

    MAMBO-9's light was already detected ten years ago by co-author Manuel Aravena, using the Max-Planck Millimeter BOlometer (MAMBO) instrument on the IRAM 30-meter telescope in Spain and the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in France. But these observations were not sensitive enough to reveal the distance of the galaxy. "We were in doubt if it was real, because we couldn't find it with other telescopes. But if it was real, it had to be very far away," says Aravena, who was at that time a PhD student in Germany and is currently working for the Universidad Diego Portales in Chile.

    Thanks to ALMA's sensitivity, Casey and her team have now been able to determine the distance of MAMBO-9. "We found the galaxy in a new ALMA survey specifically designed to identify dusty star-forming galaxies in the early universe," said Casey. "And what is special about this observation, is that this is the most distant dusty galaxy we have ever seen in an unobstructed way."

    The light of distant galaxies is often obstructed by other galaxies closer to us. These galaxies in front work as a gravitational lens: they bend the light from the more distant galaxy. This lensing effect makes it easier for telescopes to spot distant objects (this is how ALMA could see galaxy SPT0311-58). But it also distorts the image of the object, making it harder to make out the details.

    In this study, the astronomers saw MAMBO-9 directly, without a lens, and this allowed them to measure its mass. "The total mass of gas and dust in the galaxy is enormous: ten times more than all the stars in the Milky Way. This means that it has yet to build most of its stars," Casey explained. The galaxy consists of two parts, and it is in the process of merging.

    Casey hopes to find more distant dusty galaxies in the ALMA survey, which will give insight into how common they are, how these massive galaxies formed so early in the universe, and why they are so dusty. "Dust is normally a by-product of dying stars," she said. "We expect one hundred times more stars than dust. But MAMBO-9 has not produced that many stars yet and we want to find out how dust can form so fast after the Big Bang."

    "Observations with new and more capable technology can produce unexpected findings like MAMBO-9," said Joe Pesce, National Science Foundation Program Officer for NRAO and ALMA. "While it is challenging to explain such a massive galaxy so early in the history of the universe, discoveries like this allow astronomers to develop an improved understanding of, and ask ever more questions about, the universe."

    The light from MAMBO-9 travelled about 13 billion years to reach ALMA's antennas (the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old today). That means that we can see what the galaxy looked like in the past. Today, the galaxy would probably be even bigger, containing one hundred times more stars than the Milky Way, residing in a massive galaxy cluster.

    The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.


    Nye was born November 27, 1955, [7] [8] in Washington, D.C., to Jacqueline Jenkins-Nye (née Jenkins 1921–2000), who was a codebreaker during World War II and Edwin Darby "Ned" Nye (1917–1997), who also served in World War II and worked as a contractor building an airstrip on Wake Island. [9] Ned was captured and spent four years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp living without electricity or watches, he learned how to tell time using the shadow of a shovel handle, spurring his passion for sundials. [9] [10] [11] [12] Jenkins-Nye was among a small elite group of young women known as "Goucher Girls," alumnae of Goucher College in Towson, Maryland, whom the Navy enlisted to help crack codes used by Japan and Germany. "She wasn't Rosie the Riveter, she was Rosie the Top-Secret Code Breaker," Nye recalls. "People would ask her what she did during World War II and she'd say, 'I can't talk about it, ha ha ha! ' " [13]

    Nye attended Lafayette Elementary School and Alice Deal Junior High before attending Sidwell Friends for high school on a scholarship, graduating in 1973. [14] [15] He moved to Ithaca, New York to attend Cornell University and study at the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. His enthusiasm for science deepened after he took an astronomy class with Carl Sagan. [16] He graduated with a BS in mechanical engineering in 1977. [17]

    1977–1986: Boeing

    After graduating from Cornell, Nye worked as an engineer for the Boeing Corporation and Sundstrand Data Control near Seattle. At Boeing, he invented a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube used on Boeing 747 airplanes. [18] He applied four times, unsuccessfully, for NASA's astronaut training program. [19]

    Nye started doing standup comedy after winning a Steve Martin lookalike contest in 1978. [20] Nye's friends asked him to do Steve Martin impressions at parties, and he discovered how much he enjoyed making people laugh. He began moonlighting as a comedian while working at Boeing. [21] He has stated, "At this point in our story, I was working on business jet navigation systems, laser gyroscope systems during the day, and I'd take a nap and go do stand-up comedy by night." [21]

    He also participated in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and volunteered at the Pacific Science Center on weekends as a "Science Explainer." [20]

    1986–1991: Comedy beginnings and Almost Live!

    Nye quit his job at Boeing on October 3, 1986 to focus on his burgeoning comedy career. [21]

    During Nye's 10-year college reunion in 1987, he went to great lengths to meet with Sagan at Cornell. Sagan's assistant told Nye, "Okay, you can talk to him for five minutes." In their meeting at the space sciences building, Nye explained that he was interested in developing a science television program. "I mentioned how I planned to talk about bridges and bicycles and so on—stuff that, as an engineer, I'd been interested in—and [Sagan] said, 'Focus on pure science. Kids resonate to pure science rather than technology.' And that turned out to be great advice." [22]

    In 1986, Nye worked as a writer/actor on a local sketch comedy television show in Seattle called Almost Live!. He first got his big break on the show from John Keister who met him during an open mic night. [23] After a guest canceled, cohost Ross Shafer told Nye he had seven minutes of programming to fill. "Why don't you do that science stuff?" Shafer suggested. [24] Nye entertained audiences with comical demonstrations, including what happened when you ate a marshmallow that had been dipped in liquid nitrogen. [25] His other main recurring role on Almost Live! was as Speed Walker, a speedwalking Seattle superhero "who fights crime while maintaining strict adherence to the regulations of the international speedwalking association." [20]

    A famous incident on the show led to Nye's stage name. He corrected Keister on his pronunciation of the word "gigawatt", and Keister responded, "Who do you think you are—Bill Nye the Science Guy?" [26] Nye's science experiments resonated with viewers, and the local chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded him a talent Emmy for one of his segments. [27]

    Even though Nye was regular on Almost Live!, he was only doing freelance work for the program. [28] While looking for more TV gigs, he got the opportunity in 1989 to host Fabulous Wetlands, a short educational show about Washington's wetlands, sponsored by the Washington State Department of Ecology. [28] On Fabulous Wetlands, Nye explained the importance of preserving estuaries, and the hazards of pollution. [29] The show was, in many ways, a model for Nye's later show, with "zany camera cuts paired with Nye's humor" that set it apart from other scientific broadcasts. [28] Nye soon got more offers to appear on nationally broadcast programs, including eight segments of the Disney Channel's All-New Mickey Mouse Club. [27]

    Following his stint on Almost Live!, from 1991 to 1993 Nye appeared on live-action educational segments of Back to the Future: The Animated Series, assisting Dr. Emmett Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd). [30]

    In 1993, collaborating with James McKenna, Erren Gottlieb and Elizabeth Brock, Nye developed a pilot for a new show, Bill Nye the Science Guy, for the Seattle public broadcasting station KCTS-TV. [31] They pitched the show as "Mr. Wizard meets Pee-wee's Playhouse". [22] Nye obtained underwriting for the show from the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy. The program became part of a package of syndicated series that local stations could schedule to fulfill Children's Television Act requirements. [32] Because of this, Bill Nye the Science Guy became the first program to run concurrently on public and commercial stations. [32] The series was produced by Walt Disney Television and Rabbit Ears Productions, and distributed by Disney. [33]

    Bill Nye the Science Guy ran from 1993 to 1998, and was one of the most-watched educational TV shows in the United States. [34] While portraying "The Science Guy", Nye wore a powder blue lab coat and a bow tie. Nye Labs, the production offices and set where the show was recorded, was in a converted clothing warehouse near Seattle's Kingdome. [34] Although it focused on younger viewers, it also attracted a significant adult audience. [35] Its ability to make science entertaining and accessible made it a popular teaching tool in classrooms. With its quirky humor and rapid-fire MTV-style pacing, the show won critical acclaim and was nominated for 23 Emmy Awards, winning nineteen. Research studies found that regular viewers were better at explaining scientific ideas than non-viewers. [36]

    In addition to the TV show, Nye published several books as The Science Guy. A CD-ROM based on the series, titled Bill Nye the Science Guy: Stop the Rock!, was released in 1996 for Windows and Macintosh by Pacific Interactive. [37] [34]

    Nye's Science Guy personality is also prominent at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts—most notably his appearance with Ellen DeGeneres at Ellen's Energy Adventure, an attraction that ran from 1996 to 2017 at the Universe of Energy pavilion at Epcot at Walt Disney World. Nye's Science Guy character is also heard in a voice-over in the DINOSAUR attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom, [38] and was the on-air spokesman for the Noggin television network in 1999. [39]

    The Eyes of Nye

    Following the success of Bill Nye the Science Guy, Nye began work on a comeback project, The Eyes of Nye, aimed at an older audience and tackling more controversial science topics such as genetically modified food, global warming and race. However, "shifting creative concepts, infighting among executives and disputes over money with Seattle producing station KCTS" significantly delayed production for years. [40] KCTS was hampered by budgetary problems and couldn't produce a show pilot on time. [40] "KCTS went through some distress," Nye recalled. "When we did The Eyes of Nye, the budget started out really big, and by the time we served all these little problems at KCTS, we had a much lower budget for the show than we'd ever had for the 'Science Guy' show which was made several years earlier." [23] PBS declined to distribute The Eyes of Nye, and it was eventually picked up by American Public Television. "PBS wanted more serious, in-depth Nova-style shows," explained co-producer Randy Brinson. [41] The show, which eventually premiered in 2005, lasted only one season. Nye acknowledged that omitting his bow tie on the program was a mistake. "I tried wearing a straight tie. It was nothing," Nye said. "We were trying something new. It wasn't me." [23]

    Other media appearances

    From 2000 to 2002, Nye was the technical expert on BattleBots. [42] In 2004 and 2005, he hosted 100 Greatest Discoveries, an award-winning series produced by THINKFilm for The Science Channel, broadcast in high definition on the Discovery HD Theater network. [43] In 2007, he also hosted an eight-part Discovery Channel series, Greatest Inventions with Bill Nye. [44]

    A lecture Nye gave on getting children excited about math inspired the creation of the crime drama Numb3rs, where Nye appeared in several episodes as an engineering professor. [45] On October 28, 2007, he also made guest appearances on the VH1 reality show America's Most Smartest Model. [46]

    Nye appeared on segments of Heidi Cullen's The Climate Code, later renamed Forecast Earth on The Weather Channel, relating his personal ways of saving energy. [47] In the fall of 2008, he appeared periodically on the daytime game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire as part of its "Ask the Expert" feature. [48]

    In 2008, Nye hosted Stuff Happens, a short-lived show on the Planet Green network. [49] In November 2008, he portrayed himself in the fifth-season episode "Brain Storm" of Stargate Atlantis, alongside fellow television personality and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. [50]

    In October 2009, Nye recorded a short YouTube video (as himself, not his TV persona) advocating clean-energy climate-change legislation, on behalf of Al Gore's Repower America campaign. [51] He joined the American Optometric Association in a multimedia advertising campaign to persuade parents to provide their children with comprehensive eye examinations. [52]

    In 2013, Nye guest starred in The Big Bang Theory episode "The Proton Displacement." [53] In the episode, Sheldon Cooper befriends Nye and brings him in to teach Leonard Hofstadter a "lesson" after Professor Proton (played by Bob Newhart) helps Leonard with an experiment instead of Sheldon. Professor Proton accuses Bill Nye of making his TV series similar to Proton's show. After Nye and Sheldon leave, Leonard receives a selfie of the two having smoothies, and later gets a text from Sheldon asking for a ride home, as Nye has ditched him at the smoothie store. In a later discussion with Professor Proton, Sheldon reveals that Nye had a restraining order against him, so he could not help him contact Nye. [54]

    On February 28, 2014, Nye was a celebrity guest and interviewer at the White House Student Film Festival. [55]

    On August 31, 2016, Netflix announced that Nye would appear in a new series, Bill Nye Saves the World, which premiered on April 21, 2017. [56] [57] Nye appeared in the 2016 documentary Food Evolution, directed by Academy Award-nominated director Scott Hamilton Kennedy and narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson. [58]

    In 2017, he was the subject of a biographical documentary film, Bill Nye: Science Guy, directed by David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg. [1] Nye was honorary co-chair of the inaugural March for Science on April 22, 2017. [59]

    In 2018, Nye guest-starred in an episode of Blindspot, "Let It Go", playing a fictionalized version of himself who is the father of the character Patterson. [60] Nye's fictional self also alludes to his rivalry with Rodney McKay, which was established in the aforementioned "Brain Storm" episode of Stargate Atlantis. [61] Also in 2018, Nye made a second guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory as himself, together with fellow scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, in the first episode ("The Conjugal Configuration") of the show's final season. [62]

    In September 2019, Nye was a guest on Episode 127 of Jonathan Van Ness's podcast Getting Curious, where they discussed climate change, the failures of cold fusion, the potential of better battery technology for storage of energy produced by wind turbines and solar panels, the benefits of and forthcoming improvements to electric vehicles, and the detriment and failures of fossil fuel and nuclear energy, measures toward water cleanliness, the role of girls' and women's education in improving the environment, and the threat the Trump administration posed to the environment and to scientific thought in general. [63] [64] [65]

    Nye also voiced himself in the animated feature Happy Halloween, Scooby Doo! [66] Nye portrayed Upton Sinclair in the 2020 biopic Mank.

    Nye later competed on The Masked Singer spinoff The Masked Dancer as "Ice Cube".

    Science advocacy

    In the early 2000s, Nye assisted in the development of a small sundial included in the Mars Exploration Rover missions. [7] Known as MarsDial, in addition to tracking time, it had small colored panels to provide a basis for color calibration. [67] From 2005 to 2010, Nye was the vice president of the Planetary Society, an organization that advocates space science research and the exploration of other planets, particularly Mars. [68] He became the organization's second Executive Director in September 2010 when Louis Friedman stepped down. [69] [70]

    In November 2010, Nye became the face of a major science exhibition at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California. [71] Bill Nye's Climate Lab featured him as commander of the Clean Energy Space Station and invited visitors on an urgent mission to thwart climate change. [72]

    From 2001 to 2006, Nye served as Frank H. T. Rhodes Class of '56 University Professor at Cornell University. [17] [73]

    On August 27, 2011, gave a public lecture at Cornell University that filled its 715-seat Statler Auditorium. [74] He spoke of his father's passion for sundials and timekeeping, his time at Cornell, his work on the sundials on the Mars rovers, and the story behind the Bill Nye Solar Noon Clock, [5] which he then presented to the university atop Rhodes Hall.

    Nye conducted a Q&A session after the 2012 Mars Rover Landing. [75]

    Nye is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a U.S. nonprofit scientific and educational organization that promotes scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims. [76] Interviewed by John Rael for the Independent Investigation Group IIG, Nye said that his "concern right now . [is] scientific illiteracy . you [the public] don't have enough rudimentary knowledge of the universe to evaluate claims." [77] In November 2012, he launched a Kickstarter campaign for an educational aerodynamics game called AERO 3D, but it was not funded. [78]

    In September 2012, Nye claimed that creationist views threatened science education and innovation in the United States. [79] [80] [81] In February 2014, he debated creationist Ken Ham at the Creation Museum on whether creation is a viable model of origins in today's modern, scientific era. [82] [83] [84] In July 2016, Ham gave Nye a tour of the Ark Encounter the day after it first opened to the public. [85] [86] He and Ham had an informal debate while touring the structure, [87] and footage from Nye's visit was subsequently included in the documentary film Bill Nye: Science Guy, released in 2017. [88]

    Since 2013, Nye has been a member of the Advisory Council of the National Center for Science Education. [89]

    On Earth Day 2015, Nye met with U.S. President Obama to visit Everglades National Park in Florida and discuss climate change and science education. [90] [91] [92]

    In March 2015, Nye announced he changed his mind and now supported GMOs. [93] In a new edition of Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, Nye rewrote a chapter on GMOs reflecting his new position. [94] In a radio interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson, he said, "There's no difference between allergies among GMO eaters and non-GMO eaters. I've changed my mind about genetically modified organisms." [95]

    In July 2017, Nye observed that the majority of climate change deniers are older people, and said, "So we're just going to have to wait for those people to 'age out', as they say." [96] He has continued to advocate against climate change. On Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on May 12, 2019, he discussed climate change and the proposed Green New Deal, and said: [97]

    Here, I've got an experiment for you—safety glasses on. By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on Earth could go up another 4 to 8 degrees. What I'm saying is the planet's on fucking fire. There are a lot of things we could do to put it out. Are any of them free? No, of course not—nothing's free, you idiots. Grow the fuck up. You're not children anymore. I didn't mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12, but you're adults now and this is an actual crisis. Got it? Safety glasses off, motherfuckers.

    Nye has written over a dozen books in his career, including:

    • Bill Nye the Science Guy's Big Blast of Science (1993)
    • Bill Nye the Science Guy's Consider the Following: A Way Cool Set of Science Questions, Answers, and Ideas to Ponder (1995)
    • Bill Nye the Science Guy's Big Blue Ocean (1999)
    • Bill Nye the Science Guy's Great Big Dinosaur Dig (2002)
    • Bill Nye the Science Guy's Great Big Book of Tiny Germs (2005)
    • Bill Nye the Science Guy's Great Big Book of Science - featuring Oceans and Dinosaurs (2005)
    • Nye, B. (2014). Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN978-1250007131 .
    • Nye, B. (2015). Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN978-1250007148 .
    • Nye, B. (2017). Everything All at Once: How to Unleash Your Inner Nerd, Tap into Radical Curiosity and Solve Any Problem. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Books. ISBN978-1623367916 . [98]
    • Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World (2017)
    • Jack and the Geniuses Lost in the Jungle (2017)
    • Jack and the Geniuses in the Deep Blue Sea (2018)
    • Bill Nye's Great Big World of Science (2020)

    Nye holds three United States patents, [99] including one for ballet pointe shoes, [68] [100] one for an educational magnifying glass created by filling a clear plastic bag with water, [101] [102] and one for a device for training an athlete to throw a ball. [103] He also holds a design patent for a digital abacus. [104]

    Nye was a contestant in the season 17 of Dancing with the Stars in 2013, partnered with new professional dancer Tyne Stecklein. They were eliminated early in the season after Nye sustained an injury to his quadriceps tendon on Week 3. [105]

    Dance Score Music Result
    Cha-cha-cha 14 (5-4-5) "Weird Science"—Oingo Boingo No Elimination
    Paso Doble 17 (6-5-6) Symphony No. 5—Ludwig van Beethoven Safe
    Jazz 16 (6-5-5) "Get Lucky"—Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams Eliminated

    Nye has residences in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles, in New York City, [106] and on Mercer Island near Seattle. [107] His California house is solar-powered, and often feeds extra power back into the public power grid, something he enjoys showing visitors. [108]

    Nye and his neighbor, environmental activist/actor Ed Begley Jr., have engaged in a friendly competition "to see who could have the lowest carbon footprint", according to Begley. [109] Nye often appeared on Begley's HGTV/Planet Green reality show Living with Ed. [110]

    In July 2012, Nye supported President Barack Obama's reelection bid. [111] He frequently consulted with Obama on science matters during Obama's presidency, and famously took a selfie with him and Neil deGrasse Tyson at the White House. [112] Nye attended the 2018 State of the Union Address after being invited by Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine. Nye's attendance drew scrutiny due to Bridestine's "history of expressing climate change skepticism," but Nye defended him: "While the Congressman and I disagree on a great many issues, we share a deep respect for NASA and its achievements and a strong interest in the future of space exploration. My attendance tomorrow should not be interpreted as an endorsement of this administration, or of Congressman Bridenstine's nomination, or seen as an acceptance of the recent attacks on science and the scientific community." [113] Nye endorsed Jay Inslee during the 2020 Democratic primaries, until Inslee suspended his campaign on August 21, 2019. [114] On October 28, 2020, Nye took to Twitter endorsing Joe Biden for president, urging his followers to vote on behalf of climate change and science. [115]

    Nye married musician Blair Tindall on February 3, 2006 however, he annulled the relationship seven weeks later when the marriage license was declared invalid. [116] In 2007, Nye obtained a restraining order against Tindall after she broke into his house and stole several items, including his laptop computer, which she used to send defamatory emails impersonating Nye, and damaged Nye's garden with herbicide. Tindall acknowledged killing the plants but denied being a threat to Nye. [117] Nye subsequently sued Tindall for $57,000 in attorney's fees after she allegedly violated the protective order. [118]

    In the 2017 PBS documentary Bill Nye: Science Guy, Nye revealed his family's plight of ataxia. Due to his father's, sister's and brother's lifelong struggles with balance and coordination, Nye decided to not have children to avoid the chance of passing on the condition, even though he "dodged the genetic bullet" himself. [119]

    In July 2018, Nye played for the National League squad at the MLB All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game. After striking out in his first at-bat, he singled in the bottom of the third inning to a rousing ovation from the Nationals Park crowd.

    In May 1999, Nye was the commencement speaker at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree. [121] He received honorary doctorates from Johns Hopkins University in May 2008, [122] and in May 2011 from Willamette University [123] In May 2015, Rutgers University awarded him an honorary doctor of science degree and paid him a $35,000 speaker's fee for presenting the ceremony's keynote address. [124] Nye also received an honorary doctor of pedagogy degree during a commencement ceremony at Lehigh University on May 20, 2013. [125] He received the 2010 Humanist of the Year Award from the American Humanist Association. [126] In October 2015, Nye was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from Simon Fraser University. [127] In 2011, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSICOP) gave Nye their highest award, In Praise of Reason. On behalf of the committee, Eugenie Scott stated: "If you think Bill is popular among skeptics, you should attend a science teacher conference where he is speaking—it is standing room only. No one has more fun than Nye when he is demonstrating principles of science." [128] In 1997, CSICOP also presented Nye with the Candle in the Dark Award for his "lively, creative. endeavor." [129]

    The field of view of an interferometer is determined by the size of the individual antennas and the observing frequency. It is independent of the array configuration. The field of view is expressed in terms of the primary beam, which describes the antenna response (sensitivity) as function of the angle away from the main axis. The primary beam can be approximated by a gaussian function, although the primary beam contain sidelobes as well. The full-width-at-half-maximum (FWHM) of the primary beam is usually taken as the diameter of the field of view of an interferometer however, note that the sensitivity is not uniform over this field having a maximum at the center and tapering off towards the edges.

    The FWHM of the ALMA primary beam is 21" at 300 GHz for a 12-m antenna and a 35” for a 7-m antenna , and scales linearly with wavelength (diffraction limit of a single antenna, as opposed to that of the whole array). To achieve uniform sensitivity over a field larger than about a few arcsec, or to image larger regions than the primary beam, mosaicking is required, which is a standard observing mode for ALMA. If you plan to use mosaicking, individual pointings should be separated by 1/2 the primary beam FWHM to achieve Nyquist sampling.

    Phase 2

    All Projects approved for observations with ALMA need to go through the Phase 2 generation. For the Supplemental Call, PIs are not requested to submit their validated Science Goals (SGs). The Scheduling Blocks (SBs) corresponding to all approved SGs will be generated by the Observatory in batch mode. Shortly after receiving the notification letters, PIs of approved projects are contacted by ALMA via a Helpdesk ticket. The Project Helpdesk ticket is assigned to a Contact Scientist who will be happy to assist with any queries that may arise. Any necessary communication between the PI and ALMA concerning the approved project should proceed by replying to this Helpdesk ticket. The only exception is for major change requests, which require official change request tickets that have to be submitted by the PIs by 10 December 2019. If your project requires Total Power observations and you want to override the observatory-provided reference position (for OFF position selection criteria see Section 5 of the Phase 2 Quick Start Guide), you may also do so by 10 December on the project ticket.

    PIs of approved Projects should consult the Phase 2 QuickStart Guide for full instructions, with the above specifics for the Supplementary Call in mind.

    Users may also reference the ALMA Proposer's Guide and the ALMA Technical Handbook for the present Cycle.

    The ALMA Observing Tool (OT) is a Java application used for the preparation and submission of ALMA Phase 1 (observing proposal) and Phase 2 (telescope runfiles for accepted proposals) materials.

    Cycle 7 OT Download & Installation

    The OT should run on all common operating systems and depends on there being a version of Java being available. In previous releases of the OT it was the responsibility of the user to ensure that a suitable version of Java was installed, but the Cycle-8 version of the OT will come with its own version of Java 11 and thus the user need no longer worry about their local Java installation. Unfortunately, as Java 11 does not include Web Start, this version of the OT is no longer available. Note however that Web Start remains available for the Cycle-7 OT and still requires that Java 8 has been installed by the user. The Cycle-8 OT can be installed in two different ways, either with a modern installer or manually with a tarball distribution.

    It is recommended that the OT be installed using the ALMA OT Installer. This uses a modern graphical interface to report the progress of the installation and allows the user to change various settings from their defaults, including the amount of memory the OT may use. The installation will produce an executable file that can be used to start the OT. With the loss of Web Start, automatic updates of the tool are no longer possible, but the OT will detect if an update is available at start-up and inform the user. If problems are encountered with the installer, then the tarball must be used. Due to issues with recently tightened security settings, users of Mac OS 10.15 (Catalina) must use the tarball.

    The tarball version must be installed manually and the instructions for doing this have not changed.


    Extensive documentation is available to help you work with the OT and optimally prepare your proposal:

    • If you are a novice OT user you should start with the OT Quickstart Guide, which takes you through the basic steps of ALMA proposal preparation.
    • Audio-visual illustrations of different aspects of the OT can be found in the OT video tutorials. These are recommended for novices and advanced users alike.
    • More in-depth information on the OT can be found in the User Manual, while concise explanations of all fields and menu items in the OT are given in the Reference Manual. These two documents are also available within the OT under the Help menu.


    If you have problems with the installation and/or startup of the OT, please see the troubleshooting page. A list of currently known bugs, their status and possible workarounds can be found on the regularly updated known OT Issues page. A further source of information is the OT section of the ALMA Helpdesk Knowledgebase - this contains a number of articles that deal with frequently-asked questions. After exploring these resources, if confusion over some aspect of the OT remains, or if a previously unidentified bug has been uncovered, please file a Helpdesk ticket.

    OT Cycle 7 Web Start download:

    Click the OT Logo to start the OT. If the OT has not been downloaded before, or if an update has been released, a download window will appear. For first-time users, after the download has completed, you may (depending on your operating system) be given the option to create a shortcut, or one will be created automatically for you, usually on the desktop. Future use of the OT can then most conveniently be started by double-clicking the shortcut. Even if a shortcut is not created, the OT will have been downloaded into the Web Start cache and can be started from the Java Cache Viewer (accessible using 'javaws -viewer' or from Java Preferences on a Mac).


    • The Web Start will automatically detect if an update to the installed version of the OT has been released and will automatically download it.
    • If a network connection is not available, the Web Start version will still work, but will obviously not be able to update itself or use the OT's external services such as the user database, online spectral line search, etc.

    OT Cycle 7 Tarball download:

    The tarball version of the OT is not the recommended way of using the OT and should usually only be used if it proves impossible to get the Web Start version working. The installation instructions for the tarball version are:

    1. Download the tarball in your preferred format:

    2. Unpack the tarball (it will unpack into its own directory).

    3. Run post-installation setup

    cd ALMAOT-Cycle*/setup
    cd ..

    -> Go to the ALMAOT-Cycle*/setup directory

    -> Double click "Setup-Windows" (may read "Setup-Windows.cmd")

    4. Start up the OT

    Double-click "ALMA-OT" (might read "ALMA-OT.cmd")

    Note: Due to licencing issues, it is no longer possible to offer a version of the OT that comes with its own version of Java.

    What 100,000 Star Factories in 74 Galaxies Tell Us about Star Formation across the Universe

    Summary: The ALMA telescope is conducting an unprecedented survey of nearby disk galaxies to study their stellar nurseries. With it, astronomers are beginning to unravel the complex and as-yet poorly understood relationship between star-forming clouds and their host galaxies.

    Galaxies come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some of the most significant differences among galaxies, however, relate to where and how they form new stars. Compelling research to explain these differences has been elusive, but that is about to change.

    A vast, new research project with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and its international partners (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ), ALMA is among the most complex and powerful astronomical observatories on Earth or in space. The telescope is an array of 66 high-precision dish antennas in northern Chile. , known as PHANGS-ALMA (Physics at High Angular Resolution in Nearby GalaxieS), delves into this question with far greater power and precision than ever before by measuring the demographics and characteristics of a staggering 100,000 individual stellar nurseries spread throughout 74 galaxies.

    PHANGS-ALMA, an unprecedented and ongoing research campaign, has already amassed a total of 750 hours of observations and given astronomers a much clearer understanding of how the cycle of star formation changes, depending on the size, age, and internal dynamics of each individual galaxy. This campaign is ten- to one-hundred-times more powerful (depending on your parameters) than any prior survey of its kind.

    “Some galaxies are furiously bursting with new stars while others have long ago used up most of their fuel for star formation. The origin of this diversity may very likely lie in the properties of the stellar nurseries themselves,” said Erik Rosolowsky, an astronomer at the University of Alberta in Canada and a co-Principal Investigator of the PHANGS-ALMA research team.

    He presented initial findings of this research at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society being held this week in Seattle, Washington. Several papers based on this campaign have also been published in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    “Previous observations with earlier generations of radio telescopes provide some crucial insights about the nature of cold, dense stellar nurseries,” Rosolowsky said. “These observations, however, lacked the sensitivity, fine-scale resolution, and power to study the entire breadth of stellar nurseries across the full population of local galaxies. This severely limited our ability to connect the behavior or properties of individual stellar nurseries to the properties of the galaxies that they live in.”

    For decades, astronomers have speculated that there are fundamental differences in the way disk galaxies of various sizes convert hydrogen into new stars. Some astronomers theorize that larger, and generally older galaxies, are not as efficient at stellar production as their smaller cousins. The most logical explanation would be that these big galaxies have less efficient stellar nurseries. But testing this idea with observations has been difficult.

    For the first time, ALMA is allowing astronomers to conduct the necessary wide-ranging census to determine how the large-scale properties (size, motion, etc.) of a galaxy influence the cycle of star formation on the scale of individual molecular clouds Molecular Cloud An interstellar gas cloud where molecular formation occurs. Over 125 different molecules from molecular clouds have now been discovered in interstellar space through radio wavelength observations. . These clouds are only about a few tens to a few hundreds of light-years Light-years The distance that light travels in one year in a vacuum. One light year is equivalent to about six trillion miles. across, which is phenomenally small on the scale of an entire galaxy, especially when seen from millions of light-years away.

    “Stars form more efficiently in some galaxies than others, but the dearth of high-resolution, cloud-scale observations meant our theories were weakly tested, which is why these ALMA observations are so critical,” said Adam Leroy, an astronomer at The Ohio State University and co-Principal Investigator on the PHANGS-ALMA team.

    Part of the mystery of star formation, the astronomers note, has to do with the interstellar medium Interstellar medium The matter contained in the regions between star systems in a galaxy. This matter is typically made up of gas, dust, and cosmic rays. – all the matter and energy that fills the space between the stars.

    Astronomers understand that there is an ongoing feedback loop in and around the stellar nurseries. Within these clouds, pockets of dense gas collapse and form stars, which disrupts the interstellar medium.

    “Indeed, comparing early PHANGS observations with the locations of newly formed stars shows that the newly formed stars quickly destroy their birth clouds,” said Rosolowsky. “The PHANGS team is studying how this disruption plays out in different types of galaxies, which may be a key factor in star-forming efficiency.”

    For this research, ALMA is observing molecules of carbon monoxide (CO) from all relatively massive, generally face-on spiral galaxies Spiral Galaxy A galaxy that is shaped like a flattened rotating disk full of young stars, a central bulge of generally older stars, and a surrounding halo of older stars and dense clusters of old stars called globular clusters. The disk is prominent due to the presence of young, hot stars in a spiral pattern. visible from the Southern Hemisphere. Molecules of CO naturally emit the millimeter-wavelength light that ALMA can detect. They are particularly effective at highlighting the location of star-forming clouds.

    “ALMA is a stunningly efficient machine to map carbon monoxide over large areas in nearby galaxies,” said Leroy. “It was able to perform this survey because of the combined power of the 12-meter dishes, which study fine-scale features, and the smaller, 7-meter dishes at the center of the array, which are sensitive to large-scale features, essentially filling in the gaps.”

    A companion survey, PHANGS-MUSE, is using the Very Large Telescope to obtain optical imaging of the first 19 galaxies observed by ALMA. MUSE stands for the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer. Another survey, PHANGS-HST uses the Hubble Space Telescope to survey 38 of these galaxies to find their youngest stellar clusters. Together, these three surveys give a startlingly complete picture of how well galaxies form stars by probing cold molecular gas, its motion, the location of ionized gas Ionized gas Gas either between the stars or among galaxies that has been superheated so that electrons are stripped away from their atoms or molecules. (regions where stars are already forming), and the galaxies’ complete stellar populations.

    “In astronomy, we have no ability to watch the cosmos change over time the timescales simply dwarf human existence,” noted Rosolowsky. “We can’t watch one object forever, but we can observe hundreds of thousands of star-forming clouds in galaxies of different sizes and ages to infer how galactic evolution works. That is the real value of the PHANGS-ALMA campaign.”

    “We also look at thousands to tens of thousands of star-forming regions within each galaxy, catching them across their life cycle. This lets us build a picture of the birth and death of stellar nurseries across galaxies, something almost impossible before ALMA,” added Leroy.

    So far, PHANGS-ALMA has studied about 100,000 Orion Nebula-like objects in the nearby universe. It is expected that the campaign will eventually observe around 300,000 star-forming regions.

    The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

    Charles Blue, Public Information Officer
    (434) 296-0314 [email protected]

    References for papers accepted and published in 2018:
    “Cloud-scale Molecular Gas Properties in 15 Nearby Galaxies,” J. Sun, et al., 2018 June. 25, Astrophysical Journal []

    “Star Formation Efficiency per Free-fall Time in nearby Galaxies,” D. Utomo, et al., 2018 July 11, Astrophysical Journal Letters []

    “A 50 pc Scale View of Star Formation Efficiency across NGC 628,” K. Kreckel, et al., 2018 August 14, Astrophysical Journal Letters []

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its Member States, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) in Taiwan and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI).

    ALMA construction and operations are led by ESO on behalf of its Member States by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), on behalf of North America and by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) on behalf of East Asia. The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

    Why do so many astronomy discoveries fail to live up to the hype?

    By Dan Falk
    Published January 24, 2021 10:00AM (EST)

    Microbe structures on ALH84001 meteorite (Nasa)


    This article originally appeared on Undark.

    B ritons who switched on their TVs to "Good Morning Britain" on the morning of Sept. 15, 2020, were greeted by news not from our own troubled world, but from neighboring Venus. Piers Morgan, one of the hosts, was talking about a major science story that had surfaced the previous day, informing his viewers that "there may be some form of life on Venus."

    Astronomers, he reported, were considering that "living organisms may be floating around in the clouds of planet Venus." He was then joined, via live TV link-up, by Sheila Kanani, a planetary scientist and outreach officer with the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). Morgan put it to her point-blank: "Is there life on Venus?" Kanani replied diplomatically but enthusiastically: "We can't definitively say that there's life on Venus at the moment. But whatever is going on at Venus is very exciting indeed."

    The research, which had been published the previous day in the journal Nature Astronomy by an international team of scientists, claimed that observations made with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile had detected the chemical phosphine, identified by its spectral signature, in the atmosphere of Venus, and that this could be read as a possible sign of life on the cloud-covered planet. Media outlets around the world carried the story — it made the front page of The New York Times — and tens of thousands tuned in to a press conference RAS co-organized to hear the scientists themselves discuss the finding. (Video of that event has by now racked up more than a quarter of a million views on YouTube.)

    It was, in brief, the big astronomy story of 2020 — or at least it was poised to be, if the results held up. Within weeks of the initial publication, however, doubts surfaced. Some astronomers questioned the methodology behind the data analysis it's possible, they argued, that the purported signal wasn't due to phosphine at all, but rather due to sources in the Earth's atmosphere or possibly in the telescope itself. Another team of astronomers re-analyzed some of the data and concluded there was "no statistically significant detection of phosphine."

    By Nov. 20, the journal's editors had appended a cautionary tag to the article: "The authors have informed the editors of Nature Astronomy about an error in the original processing of the ALMA Observatory data underlying the work in this Article, and that recalibration of the data has had an impact on the conclusions that can be drawn."

    Meanwhile, even if the team really had detected phosphine, there was no way to be certain of its biological origin the paper's authors acknowledged this, merely noting that on Earth, phosphine is typically associated with micro-organisms, but allowing that it could be due to some unknown chemical process. For many who heard the news, though, it was all too easy to leap from somewhat ambiguous spectral lines to little floating creatures in the Venusian atmosphere.

    The kinds of astronomy and physics "breakthroughs" that generate breathless media coverage on par with the Venus-phosphine story seem to come along at regular intervals. Readers may recall the purported detection of signs of primordial gravitational waves from the early universe in 2014 claims of neutrinos moving faster than light in 2011 the supposed discovery of bacteria that can use arsenic in place of an element considered vital to life in a California lake in 2010 — and the grandest such claim of the last 25 years, the alleged discovery in 1996 of fossilized micro-organisms on a Martian meteorite that had been recovered in Antarctica. (That claim was so astounding that it prompted a speech by then-President Bill Clinton.) In the end, none of these claims have held up.

    On the other hand, numerous other stories, equally big, have held up: In 2012, physicists used the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson and, less than two years after the claimed detection of primordial gravitational waves, physicists used the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors to record gravitational waves emitted by merging black holes.

    No one begrudges the attention bestowed on either of those discoveries, both of which have been recognized with Nobel Prizes. And hype can certainly be found in other fields the human genome project understandably generated an enormous amount of media interest, as have various controversies over cloning. But astronomy and physics, which offer glimpses of the farthest reaches of the universe and perhaps shed light on ancient questions about our place in the cosmos, seem to trigger a never-ending stream of provocative pronouncements. And all too often those claims seem to fall flat.

    In science, new findings face intense scrutiny. That is, after all, how science is supposed to work, and it's hardly surprising that some claims turn out to be wrong. But if claim after claim fails to live up to the hype that surrounds it, scientists worry that the public will feel let down, and may even question whether scientists can be trusted — and whether they deserve to be funded. In other words, hype has consequences, and public trust in the scientific enterprise is at stake.

    And yet the scientists and journalists that I spoke with for this piece are hesitant to place the blame on any one part of the process. Rather, it seems the machinery of hype depends equally on those who are engaged in science, those who employ them, those who fund them, and those who report on their findings.

    "There's something I call the press-academic complex," says Brian Keating, a physicist at the University of California, San Diego. "You have a mostly virtuous cycle, where academics, scientists are doing research that's fundamentally important, and then at some point, someone decides to go to their local press office." Pretty soon, local media get wind of the discovery, then national media. "At a certain point, the scientist is guaranteed to lose control of the narrative," he says.

    Charles Seife, a veteran science journalist who teaches science writing at New York University, has seen the hype machinery gradually ramp up over the course of his career. "In the past 20 to 30 years, scientists have gotten a little bit more comfortable — either through social media more recently, but even previous to that, pushed by publicity-hungry administrators — to hype their own results beyond what would ordinarily be seemly or accepted by peers," he says. The pressure is not just on the scientists, but on the journalists and the various intermediaries as well just as scientists compete for funding and prestige, journalists compete for clicks and page-views.

    "When you're trying to get a story published, there is a huge pressure to make it sound like a big deal," says Natalie Wolchover, a science journalist and senior writer and editor at Quanta Magazine.

    Funding agencies, meanwhile, earn bragging rights when a project they enabled makes a major breakthrough the same goes for the institutions that employ the scientists, whether it's a university or a government agency such as NASA.

    "Everyone has skin in the game," says Seife. "Everyone benefits from having something get a lot of publicity and a lot of attention — presuming it holds up."

    K eating has had something of an insider's view of the hype machine. He co-developed the telescope known as BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) — predecessor to BICEP2, which made news in 2014 by revealing what was said to be evidence of ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves, or rather, the imprint that those waves left on the cosmic microwave background radiation, an all-sky glow left over from the early universe. If those gravitational waves from the early universe had truly been found, it would lend support to a theory known as cosmic inflation, an element of the Big Bang model of the early universe.

    It also would have been a Nobel-worthy discovery. Indeed, Keating's book about his experiences as a cosmologist, including the BICEP2 project, is titled "Losing the Nobel Prize." As it turned out, the signal that BICEP2 measured was largely the result of dust in our own Milky Way galaxy, and not a signature of early-universe physics. (The waves successfully detected two years later by the LIGO facility were registered directly, rather than via any effect on the cosmic microwave background.)

    In the six years since BICEP2's purported discovery, Keating has come to realize that publicity is as much a part of his field as telescopes and grant applications. Major findings in astronomy and physics now routinely include press conferences. On the surface, a press conference makes perfect sense: It brings scientists and journalists together in one room (or, in Covid-times, a single webinar or Zoom screen). If the journalists have questions, the scientists can answer them in real time. But some scientists feel the press conference is a bad idea — especially if the findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal (as was the case with BICEP2 the research wasn't published until a few months later).

    Scientists who present their findings to the press before sharing their work with their peers are jumping the gun, says Marcelo Gleiser, a physicist at Dartmouth College. "And that, to me, is a capital sin." This, he says, was BICEP2's big mistake. "They did a good experiment — but they did not wait," he says. "They wanted to make a big splash."

    But, Keating notes, the BICEP2 results weren't kept secret, either, having been posted to — a sort of digital clearinghouse for research in physics — on the same day as the press conference. In his book, he explains the team's decision to crowdsource the vetting of their work: "Instead of restricting our findings to a single referee's eyes, which is typically what happens when scientists submit their findings to an academic journal — one who might well be a competitor and leak our results — we opened it to the whole world." He notes that other research teams had adopted the same strategy, so they believed there was "strong precedent" for their course of action.

    Today Keating feels differently. Having a press conference "obviously, in retrospect, was a big mistake," he says. In fact, he now sees press conferences as "a spectacle that science doesn't need," noting that they were rare until the 1990s. A scientific breakthrough would have the same impact with or without a press conference, he says. Plus, if you're shown to be wrong, "you have to walk back the result and somehow put the toothpaste back in the tube."

    As much attention as the BICEP2 press conference got, the highly polished YouTube video released by Stanford University — one of several institutions that supported the research — drew far more eyeballs. In the video, a researcher named Chao-Lin Kuo, who had designed the detectors at the heart of the BICEP2 experiment, walks up to the house of theoretical physicist Andrei Linde, one of the founders of inflation theory. Kuo, champagne in hand, tells Linde the telescope has found a clear signal of those primordial gravitational waves. Linde is ecstatic the cork on the champagne is popped tears well up. The video has been viewed more than 3 million times. The video was memorable, says Gleiser, but given how the story eventually played out, he now sees it as misguided. "It is embarrassing," he says. "It is bad for everyone's reputation, in the end."

    For Wolchover, the BICEP2 case and the discovery of gravitational waves announced by the LIGO team just two years later make an interesting contrast. In both cases, there was a much-watched press conference — but in the case of LIGO, the published, peer-reviewed article was made available at the same time as the news briefing. With BICEP2, there was voluminous media coverage but little scientific scrutiny, since the research had yet to be published. This ultimately "led to this very public downfall for that experiment, and egg on the face of some of the people covering it," she says.

    And yet, peer review is no panacea the Venus-phosphine paper had in fact been peer-reviewed at the time the results were presented to the press. The key, Wolchover says, is skepticism — something she believes was lacking in media coverage of the Venus story. She fears that people will be left with "some vague idea that we discovered life," she says. "And then they won't see next week's story that's buried at the bottom of the newspaper, if it even makes it in somewhere like [The New York Times] saying that that result has been questioned." A few weeks after the story broke, she tweeted: "The claim should have been approached with massive skepticism, given minor billing, or been skipped altogether for now."

    M arcia Bartusiak, a science journalist with decades of experience and an emeritus professor in the graduate science writing program at MIT, has seen it all before. For the scientists, there is "that desire to perhaps stick your neck out a little farther than you should have," she says. "They're on a tightrope of: They want the public's interest, they want the continued funding — but they have to be careful to not disillusion people."

    Journalists, meanwhile, face similar pressures. Early in her career, Bartusiak was reporting for Discover magazine on the purported discovery of Martian meteorites. "But when I wrote the story, and I contained both sides, the editors wanted to pump up the exciting part — you know, 'Meteorites from Mars?' And they wanted to take out all the stuff about the evidence against it because they said 'Oh, that just dilutes the story. It dilutes the punch.'"

    About a decade later, Martian meteorites were in the news once again, this time with the startling claim that fossilized micro-organisms had been detected on a particular 2-kilogram chunk of rock known as Allan Hills 84001, named for the region of Antarctica where it had been recovered. Before the NASA press conference, held in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 7, 1996, the scientists were likely urged to "be a little bit more firm, be more emphatic," Seife found in his reporting after the event. The push to be confident rather than cautious and reserved was clear, he says. Soon afterward, President Clinton spoke from the south lawn of the White House, pledging to fully support "the search for further evidence of life on Mars."

    Eventually, the claims were scaled back the scientific consensus, when it was eventually reached, was that the rock most likely contained no micro-fossils after all. When I asked Seife how the "no fossils" coverage compared to the initial reporting, he laughed. The story "quietly faded away," he said.

    In the case of the Venus story, however, not everyone views what happened as problematic. "I don't see it as an example of something that was horribly overhyped and then went south," says David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. For starters, he says the team was reasonably cautious in presenting their results. If "other people show that they made a mistake, maybe that'll end up being the story. That's not a horrible story for science. That just shows how it works," he says. And even if the results are mistaken, he says, it could be a "useful mistake" if the episode drives more scientists to investigate Venus's atmosphere.

    Just as the Venus-phosphine story was fading from the headlines, another seemingly big space story broke: In late October, NASA announced that astronomers using an airborne infrared radio telescope known as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy had detected water on the sunlit side of the moon, in a large lunar crater known as Clavius. Previous observations had been ambiguous, but now the scientists said they were sure. As NASA press releases go, this one was cautiously worded, noting that even the Sahara Desert contains 100 times more water than SOFIA had detected. Even so, it became a huge story. NASA's administrator, Jim Bridenstine, tweeted that, while it wasn't clear if could serve as a practical resource, "learning about water on the Moon is key for our #Artemis exploration plans," referring to NASA's plan to land humans on the moon by 2024.

    But, as Seife notes, we've known there's water on the moon ever since the Clementine mission in the mid-1990s. NASA, he says, took a moderately noteworthy discovery "and all of a sudden it turned to, 'We're going to land astronauts there, and they'll harvest the water, and launch rockets up from the water' — it just makes no sense." In a similar vein, Phil Plait, an astronomer and prolific science blogger, tweeted that the published paper is "very interesting and cool scientifically but tying it to Artemis is a MAJOR reach. Like, no. Stop."

    S everal of the people I spoke with described a kind of feedback loop in which scientists are tempted to over-inflate their claims, with journalists playing along for the sake of a compelling story — with no obvious way of breaking the cycle. "I don't know if we can totally abolish the hype," says Bartusiak. "I think it's always going to be with us." An obvious danger, notes Gleiser, is that the public could become jaded, especially if science journalism begins to parallel the seesaw-like stories sometimes seen in health and lifestyle reporting, in which coffee, chocolate, and wine are either good for you or bad for you, their efficacy seeming to depend on the day of the week. The risk, Gleiser says, is that "we lose this very precious thing that our ancestors have worked very hard to develop, which is trust."

    A second, related, danger is that with everyone shouting their findings at the greatest possible volume, nothing coherent can be heard above the din. "It's like how in a restaurant, when people start talking loudly, then other people start talking louder, and eventually everyone's screaming," says Wolchover.

    A good first step, she and others suggest, would be to encourage coverage that more closely reflects the significance of the research being put forward. When that research is inconclusive, the audience needs be told so.

    "If the public's trust in science is undermined, that has a devastating impact, not only on scientists," says Keating. "First the scientists will suffer, but then society will suffer." This is especially serious, he suggests, in an age when trust in science and scientists is already on shaky footing. People will think, "We can't trust science, which means knowledge, then who can we trust?"

    This article was originally published on Undark. Read the original article.