The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array's (ALMA)
antennae are situated high on the Chajnantor Plateau, a remote
area of the Atacama desert in northern Chile at 16,400 feet
(5,000 meters) above sea level. There, the dryness and altitude
create some of the best conditions for observing the night sky.
With all the antennae working in unison as a giant telescope,
the observatory will provide astronomers with a window into the
"cold universe" where cosmic secrets wait to be discovered, said
project director Pierre Cox. He added that ALMA is poised to
reach its full potential next year.
"Up to now ALMA's observations and data were published with 16
to 20 antennae, now we're going to have double that or more,
hence there will be a jump in sensitivity: better, quicker and
more data," Cox said. "I think there will be a real stream of
scientific results in the coming months and years."
The new 12-meter (13-yard) diameter dish is the 25th European
antenna to be transported up to the observatory. It will work
alongside 25 other antennae from North America and four from
East Asia, as well as 12 smaller 7-meter (7.7-yard) dishes from
The $1.1 billion telescope, which began full-scale operation in
March, has already spotted galaxies expelling gas and a star
formation near the center of the Milky Way's supermassive black
hole. It also has captured the first image of an icy ring around
a distant star.
ALMA is funded by the European Union, the United States, Canada,
Taiwan and Japan.
(Reporting by Antonio de la Jara; Writing by Anthony Esposito;
Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Gunna Dickson)
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