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World's largest radiotelescope completed in Chile

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Radiotelescope antennas of the ALMA ( Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) project, in the Chajnantor plateau, Atacama desert, some 1500 kilometers north of Santiago, on October 1, 2011.

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the world’s largest radiotelescope, located in the mountains of northern Chile, has received its finishing touches.

The device, whose completion has occasioned celebration among astronomers, is capable of probing wavelengths of the millimeter and submillimeter range.

It, as such, is meant to investigate cold matter, or, in other words, dust and cold gas, thus enabling studying of light from some of the coldest objects in the universe.

It is to be operated on by the European Southern Observatory, together with international partners in North America, and East Asia.

“You study the place where you think galaxies and stars born, so you can study the origin of the cosmological sources if you wish,” said Italian astronomer Gianni Marconi.

Speaking at a news conference in Santiago, ALMA director Pierre Cox said with the antennas now in place, all 66 would be functioning together by next year.

“Now ALMA is with its full capacity of antennas and there are still a few things to be done to bring all the antennas into the array so that they can operate and be available for science. But today, we started the second cycle of observations with a minimum of 45 antennas – or array elements – available at all times. It’s rather a number close to 50 now, and that will gradually ramp up through next year to have the 66 antennas,” said Cox.


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