Final Antenna Delivered to ALMA
ALMA/DICYT The final antenna for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) project has just been handed over to the ALMA Observatory by the European AEM Consortium, which also marks the successful delivery of a total of 25 European antennas, 25 North American antennas and 16 Japanese antennas.
By the end of 2013, all 66 ultra-precise millimeter/submillimeter wave radio antennas are expected to be working together as one telescope, in an array that will stretch for up to 16 kilometers across the Chajnantor plateau in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.
The ALMA Observatory was inaugurated by the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, in March 2013. That event marked the completion of all the major systems of the giant telescope and the formal transition from a construction project to a fully-fledged observatory.
This delivery of the last antenna completes the ALMA antenna construction phase and provides all 66 antennas for science use, marking the beginning of a new era of discoveries in astronomy. "This is an important milestone for the ALMA observatory since it enables astronomers in Europe and elsewhere to use the complete ALMA telescope, with its full sensitivity and collecting area," says Wolfgang Wild, the European ALMA Project Manager.
ALMA helps astronomers answer important questions about our cosmic origins. The telescope observes the Universe using light with millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, between infrared light and radio waves in the electromagnetic spectrum. Light at these wavelengths comes from some of the coldest, but also from some of the most distant, objects in the cosmos. These include cold clouds of gas and dust where new stars are being born, and remote galaxies towards the edge of the observable Universe.
The Universe is relatively unexplored at submillimeter wavelengths, as the telescopes need extremely dry atmospheric conditions, such as those at Chajnantor, many large antennas and advanced detector technology. Even before it was complete ALMA had already been used extensively for science projects and had shown great potential with the publication of many exciting science results.