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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

ALMA the worlds largest radio telescope is open for business

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From: M. Nandakumar <>
Date: Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 4:29 AM
Subject: [] ALMA, The World's Largest Radio Telescope, Is Open For Business

ALMA, The World's Largest Radio Telescope, Is Open For Business.

The ALMA telescope can make observations 24 hours a day, as long as there are clear skies in the Atacama. Even thin wispy clouds can block some of the incredibly faint signals ALMA struggles to hear from the distant cosmos.

One of 50 12-meter ALMA antennas scans the daytime skies from the Chajnantor Plateau, at 16,400 feet in the Andes mountains.

The landscape of the Chajnantor Plateau looks otherworldly, covered with soft red dust and bookended by mountains and volcanoes. The Licancabur volcano, an iconic symbol of the Atacama, is in the background.

ALMA is the grandest ground-based observatory ever built.

The receivers inside ALMA's 12-meter antennae are cooled to 4 degrees Kelvin, which is -269 Fahrenheit. This is done to avoid radio interference from the sensitive electronics.

A paramedic stands next to one of ALMA's 12-meter radio antennas. The Array Operations Site is at such a high elevation that many people experience altitude sickness; paramedics are always on site to provide extra oxygen.

ALMA's 50 "big" antennas--25 made in the U.S., 25 made in Europe--move in unison to change viewing positions in the sky.
ALMA's radio dishes are designed to withstand extreme temperatures, winds and even earthquakes in Chile's inhospitable Atacama Desert. The dishes maintain a perfect parabolic shape down to 25 microns of error across their entire surface -- about the width of a human hair.

Alejandro Saez, correlator team lead for the Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array, describes the new telescope's specially built supercomputer. The telescope dishes and computer are located at 16,400 feet in the Chilean Andes, so Saez and other workers wear portable oxygen tanks.

Your telescope correspondent at the Chajnantor Plateau.

Thanks & Best Regards,
Saudi Arabia