As in the past years, 2008 has been a very productive and rewarding year for IRAM. At both the 30-meter telescope and the Plateau de Bure interferometer, numerous observations have led to a series of successful projects and exciting discoveries. Most notably, key results have been obtained on galaxies and quasars at high redshifts, studies around young stars have led to new detections of proto-planetary disks and a better understanding of their morphology, and kinematics and chemistry and maps of nearby galaxies have revealed the details of the distribution of the molecular gas to unprecedented sensitivity levels. Planned improvements on both facilities will increase their sensitivities and possibilities even further.
Next month, a major upgrade will take place at the 30-meter telescope with the installation and commissioning of a new series of dual polarization wide-bandwidth receivers operating at 3, 2, 1, and 0.9 mm. These new receivers, called EMIR (Eight MIxer Receiver), will replace the current single pixel receivers and be made available for general use during the next semester. EMIR will provide a long-awaited boost in sensitivity and observing capabilities at the 30-meter. For the first time, EMIR will offer at the 30-meter a permanently available receiver that, under good weather, will operate in the 330 GHz atmospheric window. The 150 and 230 GHz receivers have SSB mixers with a single sideband available at a time, while the 90 and 330 GHz receivers operate in 2SB mode and both of their sidebands can be connected to the backend. The three upper frequency receivers have 4 GHz of instantaneous bandwidth; the 90 GHz receiver offers 8 GHz instantaneous bandwidth per sideband and polarization. Further technical details and characteristics of these new receivers are provided in the Call for Proposals, a short version of which is published in this Newsletter.
Later in the year, the Plateau de Bure interferometer will be equipped with a new broadband correlator (WIDEX) that will enable to fully take advantage of the 4 GHz bandwidth of the new receivers that were installed in 2007 and 2008. The sensitivity in the continuum will be increased accordingly and the large coverage in velocity will ease the search for emission lines in high-z objects as well as provide new possibilities for line detections in galactic sources.
As foreseen, the replacement of the carbon fiber panels of the Plateau de Bure antennas with aluminum panels has started last summer. Antenna 4 was successfully refurbished and today it is operating with a surface accuracy of better than 50 microns. The next three antennas, still equipped with carbon fibers panels, will be refurbished in the coming years during the summer maintenance periods.
Finally, a major event occurred at the end of last year with the selection of a company to rebuild the Plateau de Bure cable-car. The Austrian-Italian company LEITNER, a world leader in the transport by cable, was selected and the contract was signed early January 2009. The construction will start this spring with the goal to have a cable-car fully operational at the beginning of 2010. This major decision marks an important date for the institute and for its future. I would like to warmly thank all those who have contributed to this success as well as the IRAM Partners and the Executive Council who have, by their support, made this decision possible.