Celebrating the Soul of the Earth:

 

 

 

On March 13, thousands of scientists, engineers, and amateur astronomers all over the globe will be celebrating the opening of the world’s most powerful observatory –ALMA, located in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest place in the world, at an altitude of 16,570 feet (5,050 meters) above sea level.

 

ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter Array) is an international observatory, a result of partnership between Europe, North America, and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile.

The Antenna (Click to see a larger image)

ALMA (also Spanish for “soul”) took more than 10 years and cost $1.3 billion to construct. It is designed for studying the universe at the long-wavelength millimeter and submillimeter range of light (submillimeter light has a slightly shorter wavelength than millimeter light). These ranges fall along the boundary between the radio and microwave bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, and have a longer wavelength than optical light. ALMA is expected to provide insight on star birth during the early universe, to probe the areas around young stars in order to spot the planets in the process of forming, and to discover the most distant, ancient galaxies.

 

ALMA consists of 66 radio antennas, 40 feet (12 meters) in diameter, each weighing about 100 tons. They are made of ultra-stable CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic) for the reflector base, with reflecting panels of rhodium-coated nickel.

 

Although ALMA is scheduled to be fully operational on March 13, 2013, it began scientific observations in the second half of 2011 and the first images were released in October 0f 2011. The target of the observation was a pair of colliding galaxies known as the Antennae Galaxies. The images captured were spectacular, showing the clouds of dense cold gas from which new stars form.

 

ALMA is expected to have a resolution 10 times greater than that of Hubble, which means that the observatory is accurate enough to discern a golf ball 9 miles (15 kilometers) away.

 

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This article was written by: Marina


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