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The Atacama Large Millimeter Array: Implications of a Potential Descope
Speed, image fidelity, mosaicing ability,2 and point-source sensitivity will all be affected if the ALMA array is descoped. The severest degradation is in image fidelity, which will be reduced by factors of 2 and 3 with descopes to 50 and 40 antennas, respectively.
Despite not achieving the level-1 requirements, a descoped array with 50 or 40 antennas would still be capable of producing transformational results, particularly in advancing understanding of the youngest galaxies in the universe, how the majority of galaxies evolved, and the structure of protoplanetary disks, and would warrant continued support by the United States.
Furthermore, it is the committee’s appraisal that a 40-antenna array would retain ALMA’s strong support within the general astronomical community. However, the rapid decline in imaging capability that would result with a further reduction below 40 antennas would erode this support.
Mosaicing refers to the mapping of areas larger than the field of view of a single antenna, by using multiple pointings, up to a thousand in extreme cases.