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article imageALMA: huge radio-telescope network starts operations in Chile

By Igor I. Solar     Oct 4, 2011 in Science
With great anticipation from the scientific community the network of telescopes known as ALMA began operating this weekend in the Atacama Desert of Chile; the project is the result of collaboration between Europe, the USA, Japan and the host country.
ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter /sub-millimeter Array), has completed the installation of only 16 of the 66 antennas that will conform the ambitious project located on the Chajnantor plateau at 5000 metres altitude in the Atacama desert of northern Chile. However, this configuration allows the beginning of operations and testing of the system for the observation of distant galaxies.
By the time the 66 antennas are in full operation, ALMA will be the largest ground-based astronomical observatory ever built. The antenna complex will expand a total area of 5.65 square kilometres with 54 12-meter-diameter antennas and 12 7-meter-diameter antennas. The 66 elements will be connected by 15 Km of optic fibre which will integrate the data for use and interpretation of the astronomers.
Thirty two antennas will be installed in 2012 and another 18 will go in operation in 2013. The whole system will be able to work as a single telescope of about 16 km in diameter having a level of resolution 10 times higher than NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. That would be equivalent to being able to observe the details on a coin placed 120 km away.
Currently there are about 900 projects from researchers from around the world who have requested time for observation in ALMA. The projects are evaluated and selected by a committee of 49 experts of the USA-Europe-Japan consortium on the basis of scientific merit, regional diversity and relevance to the achievement of ALMA’s scientific objectives.
Artist rendering of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)
Artist rendering of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA),
ESO (European Southern Observatory).
More about ALMA, Astronomy, radiotelescope, USA, Europe
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