Tuesday, October 01, 2013

World's Bigest Telescope Now Online

With the arrival of the 54th—and for those of you that have been counting, the final—12-meter wide

radio telescope, means that the single largest telescope,  can finally begin exploring the cosmos with a full complement of  dishes.

For those of you in caves for the past decade, the telescope in question is the Atacama Large Millimeter Array  or ALMA, an absolutely huge radio telescope array, will provide an unprecedented view of interstellar space.   How unprecedented you might ask?  Well with all the dishes now online, ALMA could spot something the size of a golf-balls at about eight miles.  ALMA will give astronomers looks inside stellar nurseries where giant clouds of dust and gas  create  new stars as well as provide insight on star birth during the early universe and detailed imaging of local star and planet formation.

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array is as you might guess located in the Atacama desert of northern Chile  on the Chajnantor plateau at about 16500 foot altitude.  ALMA will consist  of 66 12-meter and 7-meter diameter radio telescopes (54 will be 12-meter dishes with the remaining to be made up of smaller dishes).   The telescope was designed to look at the millimeter and sub-millimeter wavelengths.  ALMA can change it's "band" of viewing by clever movement of the antenna arrays.  The antennas can be moved across the desert with distances from 500 feet to 10 miles, giving ALMA a  variable "zoom" lens, if you would. 

No comments: