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Atacama’s ALMA prepares to study the Universe

ALMA1.jpgThe European partners of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) – a radio telescope in Chile – have finally delivered a radio antenna to the project (press release). And it’s a significant one: the 16th, which means that the telescope’s first original science observations can begin in September.

ALMA, a multinational collaboration between Europe, North America and East Asia with a cost well in excess of US$1 billion, will eventually consist of 54 twelve-metre antennas, along with 12 seven-metre antennas at its site 5,000 metres above sea level in the Atacama Desert.

The complete array won’t be in place until 2013, but even with the 16 it’s got, ALMA should produce better results than any existing telescopes studying the Universe at sub-millimetre wavelengths, says the European Southern Observatory. ALMA has a higher collecting area than existing telescopes, and its ultra-dry location offers greater atmospheric transparency for observations. Data should provide a new window on the cool star-forming regions of the Milky Way and on early galaxies.

Image: An ALMA antenna, via ESO/S. Rossi

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    Jon Dainty said:

    With the present difficulties the James Webb Telescope project faces, this is wonderful news. ALMA will help us continue to discover what is “out there” in fine style.

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