The eSMA: description and first results

Bottinelli, Sandrine
Young, Ken H.
Chamberlin, Richard
Tilanus, Remo P. J.
Gurwell, Mark A.
Wilner, Dave J.
Shinnaga, Hiroko
Yoshida, Hiroshige
Friberg, Per
van Langevelde, Huib Jan
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The eSMA ("extended SMA") combines the SMA, JCMT and CSO into a single facility, providing enhanced sensitivity and spatial resolution owing to the increased collecting area at the longest baselines. Until ALMA early science observing (2011), the eSMA will be the facility capable of the highest angular resolution observations at 345 GHz. The gain in sensitivity and resolution will bring new insights in a variety of fields, such as protoplanetary/transition disks, high-mass star formation, solar system bodies, nearby and high-z galaxies. Therefore the eSMA is an important facility to prepare the grounds for ALMA and train scientists in the techniques. Over the last two years, and especially since November 2006, there has been substantial progress toward making the eSMA into a working interferometer. In particular, (i) new 345-GHz receivers, that match the capabilities of the SMA system, were installed at the JCMT and CSO; (ii) numerous tests have been performed for receiver, correlator and baseline calibrations in order to determine and take into account the effects arising from the differences between the three types of antennas; (iii) first fringes at 345 GHz were obtained on August 30 2007, and the array has entered the science-verification stage. We report on the characteristics of the eSMA and its measured performance at 230 GHz and that expected at 345 GHz. We also present the results of the commissioning and some initial science-verification observations, including the first absorption measurement of the C/CO ratio in a galaxy at z=0.89, located along the line of sight to the lensed quasar PKS1830-211, and on the imaging of the vibrationally excited HCN line towards IRC+10216.
Comment: 12 pages, 7 figures, paper number 7012-12, to appear in Proceedings of SPIE vol. 7012: "Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes II", SPIE conference on Astronomical Instrumentation, Marseille, 23-28 June 2008