Alma Observatory

Proyecto Alma

Alma Observatory (The Atacama Large Millimeter Array) is an international astronomical facility where the objective is to develop a telescope, nothing like it in the world, consisting of a group of up to 66 radiotelescopic antennas working together, all pointing to the same source to study the universe, from a place 5 thousand meters above sea level, in the hghlands (Llano de Chajnantor) of the Andes Mountain Range, 50 kms. from San Pedro de Atacama in the Second Region of Chile. ALMA is the first truly global astronomical project, a site where scientists from around the world will come to use more sophisticated instruments to capture millimetric wavelength light.

Alma Observatory is a partnership between Europe, North America and Japan, in cooperation with the Republic of Chile and is financed in North America by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and in Europe by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and Spain. The construction and operation of ALMA is made, on behalf of North America by the National Astronomical Radio Observatory (NRAO) which is operated by Associated Universities Inc. (AUI), on behalf of Europe by ESO, and on behalf of Japan by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). 66 ALMA antennas are directional and transportable. Each one of the plates, real metal telescopes of exceptional optic and mechanic quality, measures 12 meters in diameter. Superconducting receivers in the ALMA antennas operate only 4 degrees below zero (-273 degrees Celsius), making it one of the world's largest super conductive electronics system. This configuration of antennas will have extensions ranging from 150 meters (in which the antennas are almost touching each other), up to 14 kms.

The place where ALMA will be located, in the Atacameño highlands of the north of Chile, is one of the highest and driest places on earth, making it ideal for astronomical research at millimetric wavelengths, that would, otherwise, be absorbed by the atmospheric moisture. Once completed, in 2012, ALMA will be the largest configuration of telescopes dedicated to astronomical images with the biggest capacity in the world.