At ALMAThe Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is the largest ground-based facility for observations in the millimeter/submillimeter regime in the world. ALMA comprises of 66 high-precision dish antennas of measuring either 12 meters across or 7 meters across and is an international partnership between Europe, the United States, Japan and the Republic of Chile. “>ALMA, we are celebrating doubly: on the one hand, October is the month of Science in Chile, and, on the other, we commemorate in ALMA the ten years since the first image of the observatory.
Ten years ago, on October 3rd, 2011, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) officially opened its doors to the astronomical community with the launch of its first image: the Antennae Galaxies collision, demonstrating its potential and heralding the start of a successful decade of astronomy.
The celebration started one month before the anniversary, with the collection of names suggestions by the public for the 66 ALMA antennas. There were two categories: Celestial objects and Kunza words, the language of the Atacameños, indigenous neighbors to the observatory. The public voted more than 200 concepts that met this criterion arrived through the ALMA website and its social networks. The result of the vote is available here.
Located on the Chajnantor plateau in northern Chile, the ALMA array was operating at 5,000 meters with only twelve of its 66 antennas when it first opened for scientific observations. With more than 900 observation proposals before its official inauguration, the observatory demonstrated how excited the scientific community was to use this new facility. Since then, during the last decade, ALMA has continued to receive high demand from astronomers worldwide. The observation demand far exceeds the time available, and many exciting and innovative projects are submitted every year.
ALMA’s antennas can be separated by up to 16 kilometers. They work together as a single giant telescope that observes the Universe in light of millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, approximately a thousand times longer than the wavelengths of visible light. These waves are emitted by some of the coldest objects in space, such as dense clouds of gas and cosmic dust from which stars and planets are formed, as well as very distant objects in the early Universe. Using interferometry, ALMA has a maximum spatial resolution better than the NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. It’s vision is “To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.””>NASA/ESA Hubble Space TelescopeThe Hubble Space Telescope (often referred to as Hubble or HST) is one of NASA’s Great Observatories and was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990. It is one of the largest and most versatile space telescopes in use and features a 2.4-meter mirror and four main instruments that observe in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It was named after astronomer Edwin Hubble.”>Hubble Space Telescope at visible wavelengths. Even after ten years, ALMA remains the largest and most powerful telescope operating in the millimeter and submillimeter range.
In its first decade, ALMA has been used by astronomers worldwide to make important discoveries. To date, ALMA has provided data for nearly 2,500 scientific articles. Highlights include:
Additionally, ALMA was one of eight ground-based telescopes used as part of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration to capture the first image of a black hole, the supermassive object at the center of the galaxy M87.
ALMA is a partnership of ESOCreated in 1962, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), is a 16-nation intergovernmental research organization for ground-based astronomy. Its formal name is the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere.”>ESO (representing its member states), NSF (USA), and NINS (Japan), together with NRC (Canada), MOST and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ.