ALMA starts the process of recovering the telescope array
With the improving pandemic situation in Chile, ALMA is now scheduled to begin the long process of recovering the telescope array in the Atacama, starting with the preparation of the Observatory Operations Support Facility (OSF) at 2,900 meters above sea level for the return of staff and contractors.
For the last six months, the whole ALMA site was shut down, including power, water treatment, and running water. Only a single piece of key equipment, the hydrogen maser, is still powered and checked daily by the ALMA Caretaker Teams, who have ensured the safety and security of the Observatory through the shutdown.
The road to recovery of operations, and ultimately science observations – a milestone that will not take place this year – has been carefully planned. It assumes that the pandemic situation in Chile and worldwide will continue to improve. Regular monitoring of the pandemic evolution is performed each week.
ALMA developed an extensive set of enhanced safety protocols related to managing the risk posed by the virus, covering all activities as the recovery of operations progresses. First, preparing the OSF for the return of staff and contractors, followed by moving back into the OSF and the use of the OSF facilities, before we begin the process of restarting the Array Operations Site (AOS) at 5,000 meters above sea level. Without doubt, each of the phases will take time and patience, establishing and working within new safety protocols while stabilizing observatory systems that have been shut down for six months, a situation which is unprecedented in the history of the observatory.
Status updates will continue to be provided as ALMA transitions from one phase to the next one, as the recovery of operations progresses.