First phase technical progress report

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The report should be written following the format specified hereafter. Once it is completed, it should be sent in printed and in electronic version to the address indicated below.

This is a technical report, a continuity plan and an economic /financial report will be asked later by the Program in due time.



Mailing address: Bernarda Morín 551, Providencia, Santiago


Phone: 56-2-4354312

For further inquiries contact:

I. PRESENTATION…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….3

II. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY………………………………………………………………………………………………….7
III. OBJECTIVES AND RESULTS OF the development plan of THE CENTER……………12
IV. ALLIANCES………………………………………………………………………………………………………………...32


VII. OUTREACH AND DISSEMINATION……………………………………………………………………………36

X. PERFORMANCE INDICATORS…………………………………………………………………………………….41
XI. FINANCIAL STATEMENT…………………………………………………………………………………………….44
XII. APPENDICES………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………45


PERIOD COVERED : From April 1, 2008 to March 30, 2012





Centro de Astrofísica y Tecnologías Afínes (CATA)




María Teresa Ruiz



Guido Garay

MANAGER (if applicable)



Universidad de Chile


Pontificia Universidad Católica, Universidad de Concepción


Research Lines of the Center

In case of changes over the period reported: 1) for research line replacements state the name of the original research line and the new one, 2) state also new research lines in case these were added over the period and 3) state old research lines that were closed over the reported period.

Line Name


Principal Investigator

Other Investigator(s)

Area 1

Birth and evolution of structures in the Universe

Leopoldo Infante

Barrientos, Bauer, Campusano, Cuadra, Demarco, Dunner, Escala, Galaz, Jordán, Lira, Lopez, Motta, Nagar, Padilla, Puzia, Quintana, Reisenegger, Treister

Area 2

Stellar Populations in the Local Universe

Doug Geisler

Borissova, Catelan, Costa, Fellhauer, Gieren, Infante, Jordán, Minniti, Mendez, Muñoz, Pietrzynski, Richtler, Rubio, Zoccali

Area 3

Distance Scale

Wolfgang Gieren

Costa, Hamuy, Mennickent, Minniti, Pietrzynski

Area 4

Star Formation

Guido Garay

Barba, Bronfman, Casassus, Escala, Mardones, May, Rubio

Area 5

Extrasolar planets and brown dwarfs

Dante Minniti

Geisler, Gieren, Jordan, Mendez, Pietrzynski, Rojo, Ruiz, Zocalli

Area 6

Supernovae and Dark Matter

Mario Hamuy

Clocchiatti, Maza, Pignata, Reisenegger

Area 7

Astronomical Instrumentation

Leonardo Bronfman

Altamirano, Bustos, May, Mena, Nagar, Vanzi

Area 8

High Performance Astronomical Computing

Alejandro Clocchiatti

Cuadra, Escala, Padilla

Area 9


José Maza

Galaz, Nagar

Research personnel

Indicate any changes in the Staff of Principal Investigators and other Investigators over the period as compared to the original Development Plan mentioning reasons, relevance and results (if applicable).

There were no changes in the Staff of Principal Investigators.

Professor Jorge May, an Associate Investigator of CATA in charge of the day-to-day operation at the Millimeter Wave Laboratory, passed away on February of 2010. Being the father of the development of radio astronomical instrumentation in Chile, this constituted a tremendous loss for the Center.
Pablo Altamirano an engineer hired by CATA during 2009 on a full time basis as Manager of the ALMA Band 1 Prototype Receiver Project, left the Center during 2011 to take a job in ALMA. Due to his expertise on the design and construction of radio and mm receivers, thus was also an important loss for the Receiver Project.

Board of Directors and Advisory Committee

Indicate the updated names and participants of the Board of Directors and Advisory Committe. If either of these entities has not been formed over period or it is not currently in operation, please indicate why.

Describe and analize the role of these entities on the performance of the Center and in particular on the Development Plan. Indicate positive as well as possible neutral or negative outcomes.

The International Advisory Committee of CATA consists of three distinguished scientists with well-recognized international reputations and with experience in the direction and/or scientific operation of International Institutes or Observatories. Each year they review the annual report presented by the Director, make on site visits to the three institutions of the Center and deliver recommendations to be implemented by the Director regarding the scientific staff and the operation of the Center in general. It also recommended research priorities, in particular the build up of a group in theoretical astrophysics. The scientists that have served, at least for one year, as members of the International Advisory Committee are:

  • Dr. Mark Phillips, Associate Director, Carnegie Observatories

  • Dr. Michael West, Head of Science, European Southern Observatory

  • Dr. Tom Wilson, Senior Scientist, ALMA-Project

  • Dr. Lars Nyman, Head of Science Operations, ALMA

  • Dr. Rainer Mauersberger, Commissioning Scientist, Joint ALMA Office.

  • Dr. Jorge Ibsen, Head of Department of Computing, ALMA

We are extremely grateful to all members of the International Advisory Committee for their willingness to participate in the internal evaluation process of CATA and for the time invested in the preparation of written documents containing criticisms and suggestions which have been of great value for a most efficient running of the Center.

This should be an executive summary of the progress made in the entire period.

In a maximum of five pages state a brief account of results and activities in research, student and young researchers’ formation, dissemination, technological and knowledge transfer to non-academic domains.

The Atacama Desert in Chile is the best site for astronomical research on Earth. The astronomical facilities currently available in the north of Chile include some of the world's best optical and infrared telescopes, namely the Very Large Telescope, Gemini-South, and Magellan. In the Chajnantor area near San Pedro de Atacama there is a unique radio synthesis telescope: the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA). Operations started last year, and when finished (2013) it will consist of sixty six antennas, all working in concert to provide sub-arcsecond angular resolution. The privileged access of Chilean astronomers to this unparalleled suite of instruments provides them with a unique opportunity to address some of the most fundamental problems in modern astrophysics, such as how planets and stars assemble and evolve, how galaxies appear and grow, and what the structure of our universe actually is and what its ultimate fate will be.
The Centro de Astrofisica y Tecnologia Afines (CATA) is a unique venture among Chilean astronomers to generate the conditions for boosting astrophysics and placing Chile among the world leaders in this area. CATA is hosted by the Universidad de Chile at its Astronomy Department in Cerro Calán, and has as associated organizations the Astronomy Department of the Pontificia Universidad Católica and the Astronomy Department of the Universidad de Concepción. The main goals of the CATA are to produce a significant increase in the astronomical community working in Chile: researchers, students and specialized engineers, in order to meet, in the best possible way, the challenges posed by the newly available facilities and take advantage of the opportunity for technological developments associated with these foreign investments. The actions taken by the CATA during its first four years of operation have been very successful in pursuing these goals. CATA has also undertaken a vigorous effort in outreach. In what follows we summarize the main activities that have been carried out in research, human resources, formation and in the development of high technology.
1. Research
CATA is providing Chilean astronomers with the proper environment and tools to undertake the proposed research, giving them the opportunity to undertake ambitious Key projects which have put them at the forefront of astrophysics. These projects favour strong interaction among researchers and make the best use of all the available research facilities. There are six main areas of astrophysics cultivated by members of the Center:

  • Birth and evolution of structures in the Universe

  • Stellar populations in the local Universe

  • The extragalactic distance scale

  • Star formation

  • Extrasolar planets and Brown dwarfs

  • Supernova and dark energy

Each of the areas is led by a Principal Investigator (P.I.) who is responsible for the guiding progress in order to achieve the science goals expected in his or her area of research.

The scientific work performed in all six research areas of the CATA during the four years of operation has been considerable and fully in accord with the science goals as formulated in the original proposal. During this period, CATA members published 579 (five hundred and seventy nine) papers in refereed journals. CATA members have investigated various problems of fundamental scientific importance, covering the origins and nature of a broad range of objects, from the largest scales ---by studying galaxy formation and evolution---to the smallest scales---by studying the collapse of an individual star and the formation of planets. Given the ample scope of the research and the amount of work done by CATA members during these four years, a fair summary is impracticable. A more detailed report of the principal science results obtained during this period in each of the individual areas of research is presented in the Results section. The list of refereed (ISI) publications is presented in the Table. Three hundred and nineteen (319) contributions were published in non-refereed journals, most of them corresponding to proceedings of congresses (see Table). In summary, research activities in all areas proceeded intensely in-line with the initial science objectives and broadening their scope.
As highlights of the scientific work, in the following we list the Key Projects implemented by CATA in each of its research areas, shortly mentioning their scientific goals. These projects, in addition to fostering collaborations between researchers of the different astronomy sites within the country, carried out scientific programs that are beyond the scope of small research groups. All Key projects received considerable amounts of telescope time and have been extremely successful.

  • Area 1: MUSYC (Multi-wavelength Survey by Yale-Chile). Deep infrared, optical and narrow band imaging of four 30´x30´ square fields, complemented with Chandra X-ray and Spitzer IR observations, with the goal of studying the formation and evolution of galaxies and of their central black holes.

  • Area 2: VVV Survey (Vista Variables in the Via Lactea). IR variability survey with the goal of determining the 3-D structure of the bulge and inner disk using primary distance indicators, such as RR-Lyrae stars, and the age of the Milky Way stellar populations.

  • Area 3: The Araucaria Project. Near Infrared photometry of variable stars with the goal of improving stellar standard candles, in particular Cepheid variables, to yield accurate distances to nearby galaxies (a few Mpc) and thus to be able to determinate the Hubble constant independent from Cosmic Microwave Background anisotropy studies.

  • Area 4: Massive stars forming regions in the southern hemisphere. Galactic plane surveys at millimetre and submillimeter wavelengths, using state-of-the-art facilities, with the aim of finding, studying and understanding the earliest phases of the formation of massive stars.

  • Area 5: Extrasolar Planets. Search, using the ESO VLT, for new extrasolar planets and measurements of their mass and radius. The main goal is to investigate the mass-radius diagram for low-mass objects including planets, brown dwarfs and late M-type stars.

2. Human resources
CATA has substantially contributed in the increase of the human resources devoted to astronomical research or astronomical instrumentation in each of its Associated Institutions. During these four years of operation a total of fourteen (14) new researchers were incorporated to the Center on a full-time basis: ten (10) astrophysicists and four (4) engineers. The new members were selected to fill expertise gaps in research areas, substantially broadening the research base in each astronomy site within the country, and have strengthened the teaching of astrophysics in all astronomy Ph.D. programs in the country. Particular efforts were made to incorporate engineers, theoreticians and sub-mm wavelength specialists in all the Associated Institutions. This proved to be crucial for achieving several of the scientific goals and to exploit the new generation of instruments located in Chile, in particular ALMA. Also during this period, CATA incorporated into the research and academic activities of the Center several scientists at the different institutions on a partial time-basis.
3. Formation
CATA has played a fundamental role in educating and training the new generations of young astronomers. These are the minds that will take full advantage of the unique opportunities available in Chile to carry out world-class research. The number of graduate students at the three Associated Institutions has steadily increased during the last four years, reaching a value of 82 students in 2011. One of the key ingredients in this accomplishment is support provided by CATA to graduate students, awarding full fellowships and stipends to participate in observing runs and attend congresses and workshops. In particular, the Key projects have broadened the range of thesis topics available to students today, allowing them to engage in first-class frontier research, thus having a big impact on the graduate programs. During the four years of operation twenty three (23) students obtained Ph.D. degrees and thirty four (34) students obtained Master degrees.
The newly hired scientists---specialists in astrophysical disciplines not cultivated by the founding members---have strengthened the teaching of astrophysics in all astronomy Ph.D. programs in the country, which are now fully conducted by Chilean universities. Center members offered graduate courses jointly to students of all Institutions, and supervision to students from any Institution. CATA made a vigorous effort to attract scientists with a background in theoretical astrophysics capable of providing the theoretical support needed for a high quality Ph.D. program in Astronomy. CATA has also actively supported the formation and consolidation of radio-astronomy groups at the associated universities, who will lead the development of mm- and sub-mm astronomy at their Institutions.
CATA has invited world experts on different astrophysical topics. The contribution of the visiting scientists has been remarkable, supplying the expertise needed for an expansion and broadening of the areas of research cultivated at the Center, and providing the theoretical support needed in the young Ph.D. programs. They usually give concentrated courses, during periods of 6 to 8 weeks. The joint venture in scientific research and academic duties carried out by the members of the different Institutions, together with the presence of visiting scientists, has generated new areas of research for graduates of all Institutions.
CATA also contributed to a substantial increase in the number of postdoctoral fellows at their associated Institutions, providing either full fellowships or resources for their travels and operations. Post-doctoral associates turn out to be key elements in establishing strong scientific collaborations between all associated astronomical Institutions.
4. National and International Collaborations
CATA is strongly promoting and fostering collaborations among astronomers working in related topics across the country, as well as internationally. In particular, CATA is encouraging scientists from the three Chilean institutions to work together in large collaborative projects that are beyond the scope of small research groups. Key programs have been already implemented and granted considerable amounts of observing time in several telescopes at the International Observatories in Chile. These programs enable Chilean astronomers to pursue more ambitious research goals than ever before, supporting the creation of large research groups and fostered close collaborations between members of different areas. Also CATA has enabled theorists and observers to join in common research projects. The large, as well as small more individual, projects are fulfilling one of the goals of CATA, which is to broaden the research base in each astronomy site within the country.
Thirty percent of the refereed papers published during the last four years have two or more CATA members as co-authors. Collaborative work among Center members is rapidly and steadily increasing with time, ensuring the fulfilment of one of the scientific goals of CATA which is to boost strong scientific collaborations between members of the different participant institutions. A quantitative measurement of this is provided by the collaboration index between Center members, measured from ISI publications, which grew from sixty five (65) in 2008 to two hundred and fourteen (214) in 2011, an increase in collaborations by more than a factor of three. About 20% of the papers involved postdoctoral fellows and 11% graduate students. A look at the list of authors of the papers by CATA members clearly shows that there is a well-established international collaboration in each of the ongoing science projects. In particular, the Key Projects involved a considerable number of international collaborators from all over the world, mainly from USA and Europe. There have been more than one hundred and seventy (170) visits between Center members and international collaborators (in both directions). The strong international partnerships have been one of the key to the scientific success of the Center.
Finally, in accordance with the strong commitment to increase human resources and networks for National Astronomy, CATA decided to foster collaborations and provide support for scientific activities to selected researchers at other Universities. These researchers are V. Motta and J. Borissova at the University of Valparaíso, R. Barba at University of La Serena and G. Pignata at University Andrés Bello (UAB).
5. Technological development
CATA is playing a key role in the development of high technology in Chile, supporting a number of initiatives of its members at the different Associated Institutions concerning technological innovation. The initiatives in astronomical instrumentation, high performance astronomical computing and robotics are developing at the expected pace and made significant progress towards reaching the main original objectives. All these projects are involving professors of electrical engineering and engineering students from the associated institutions. After four years of operations we see CATA as an important seed for the development of astronomical engineering in the country.
CATA has vigorously supported the development of instrumentation in astronomy in Chile, supporting the creation of a mm-wave laboratory at the Universidad de Chile ---aimed at developing receiver technology---, the creation of a High Performance Computing Center at Universidad Catolica ---aimed at providing to Center members the required computational capabilities to deal with the data acquired with the new mega-facilities as well as to perform numerical simulations--- and promoting the growth of radio-astronomical instrumentation facilities at Universidad de Concepción. All of these technology efforts are expected to have an important impact on the relation and access of Chilean engineers to the new astronomical Mega-projects being built in Chile, such as ALMA and the ELT.
The need for a mm-wave laboratory arises from the installation of the world's largest (sub)mm-wave telescope in Chile, the ALMA telescope, which presents a tremendous opportunity for the education and training of qualified personnel to support the development of engineering and of astronomical instrumentation in the country. The mm-wave laboratory at Cerro Calán Observatory is serving as a hands-on training for Chilean engineers and graduate students specializing in astronomical instrumentation. This laboratory is carrying out state-of-the-art projects in astronomical instrumentation, focusing on receiver development, in collaboration with recognized institutes (e.g. California Institute of Technology, ESO, University of Cologne, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Chalmers University of Technology). The goal is to boost the local development of the technological ability to design and construct receivers.
Almost all of the Key projects supported by the Center are surveys that are generating huge amounts of data. To deal with the vast flood of data from telescopes like VST, VISTA, and ALMA, the Center supported the creation of a National Data Center located at one of the Associated Institutions (PUC) which has committed additional resources and infrastructure. This National Data Center is serving not only astronomers at the Center for Astrophysics but also the rest of the Chilean astronomical community, providing quick and easy access to the data and thus promoting better research.
6. Outreach
CATA is convinced that a strong link with society is invaluable, and thus is carrying out a vigorous policy of outreach and general education, supporting and funding important activities directed to the general public, high-school students and their teachers. To enhance the interest and culture in astronomy in the community several actions have taken at the three associated Institutions. A Visitor Center was built at the Universidad de Concepción, while at Universidad de Chile the Center funded the purchase of three portable telescopes for Project Carina, a Center project designed to educate high school students of public schools in the neighborhoods of Santiago. Most Center members were involved in outreach activities at different levels. Press Releases and media diffusion of scientific results from Center members were frequently made.
Among the highlights in Outreach we mention the publication of a series of astronomy book directed at the general public but with emphasis on high-school students, written and edited in full by CATA members. The first four volumes are: “Hijos de las estrellas” by María Teresa Ruiz; “Mundos lejanos”, by Dante Minniti; “Con ojos de gigantes” by Felipe Barrientos and Sebastián López; and “Supernovas” by Mario Hamuy and José Maza. Other books of outreach supported by CATA are “Estrellas Variables” by Ronald Mennickent and “El Universo: Ciencia y ficción” written by Maria Teresa Ruiz, an innovative book designed for children between 8 and 14 years.
Finally, CATA is supporting the training of high school science teachers. So far, more than one hundred science teachers coming from all over the country have been trained in astronomy for a week at Cerro Calán Observatory where they received lectures, practical sessions, observing sessions and a large quantity of material including a special booklet prepared and printed for them.
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