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ALMA Forum

Among the major near-term projects of community wide involvement is the Atacama Large (sub)-Millimeter Array (ALMA), an interferometer consisting of sixty-four 12-metre antennas for submillimetre wavelength observations from the high-altitude (5000~m) Chajnantor site in the Chilean Andes. ALMA, the largest new ground-based astronomical endeavour, is a 600 million Euro project with global participation, presently equally shared between Europe and North America. ALMA construction has begun and partial science operations are to start in 2007, with full operation of the complete array anticipated by 2012. With its unprecedented sensitivity and angular resolution, ALMA is expected to bring major advances in nearly all fields of astronomy, and in particular in our understanding of the history of star formation in the Universe and of the physics and chemistry underlying the formation of galaxies, stars and planetary systems.

A major objective between now and 2007 is to foster and structure the European astronomical community around the ALMA project and to prepare young European astronomers both technically and scientifically for the optimum use of ALMA. The wordwide competition for observing time with ALMA will be severe, and the European community must be ready if it is to harvest its financial and personnel investments. This requires, besides supporting students and post-doctoral scientists, to build the largest possible community around the ALMA project, in order to maintain and reinforce European leadership in the fields of millimetre and submillimetre astronomy. To do so requires an enhanced coordination and collaboration with the community at large. Since some European countries have strong expertise in interferometry at submillimetre, radio and/or optical wavelengths, while others have none, there is an urgent need to share expertise, and to strengthen existing development activities around the ALMA project in Europe. The proposed networking activity has as its major goal the stimulation of collaborations between the submillimetre and radio communities, with an emphasis on interferometry techniques.

The ALMA Forum Chair/Vice-chair are T. Wilson (ESO) and R. Laing (ESO) /