United around the human curiosity to understand our cosmic origins, an international coalition of scientists and engineers have come together from around the world to build the most powerful Earth observatory in history.
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership between the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the United States and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in collaboration with the Republic of Chile.
ALMA is funded by ESO in representation of its member states, by NSF in collaboration with the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada and the National Science Council (NSC) of Taiwan, and by NINS in collaboration with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan, and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) of South Korea.
ALMA construction and operations are led by ESO on behalf of its European Member States, by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) on behalf of North America, and by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) on behalf of East Asia. The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) is responsible for overall administration and management of the construction, commissioning, and operation of ALMA.
When a telescope needs to occupy an area that covers many square kilometers and must be located above most of the precipitable water vapor in the atmosphere, there aren’t many places left to choose from. The Chajnantor plateau in the northern Chilean Andes is one of these places, and presents ideal conditions for the operation of ALMA.
The ALMA site, under concession by the Chilean government for this important scientific use, is extremely high and dry. The site is also accessible and has the necessary infrastructure to keep the observatory stocked with water, food and fuel.
Chile is home to several world-class telescopes and Chileans also benefit from this. In exchange for occupying this exceptional place, ALMA contributes to the development of astronomy in Chile, promotes local initiatives and also supports its closest neighbors. More details on how ALMA contributes to Chile here: Benefits for the Community
ESO represents its 16 Member States: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Poland and United Kingdom.
ESO manages the contributions of numerous European universities and technology and research institutes that have supported ALMA with their technology and experience. ESO’s most significant contributions to ALMA include:
North America’s participation in ALMA is coordinated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), on behalf of United States, Canada and Taiwan, and managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI). Its work is financed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the United States in collaboration with the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada and the National Science Council (NSC) of Taiwan.
North America’s main contributions to the ALMA project include:
East Asia’s participation in ALMA is managed by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) on behalf of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Its work is funded by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in collaboration with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan, and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) of South Korea.
Through its association with ALMA in 2004, East Asia contributed powerful functionalities through the Atacama Compact Array (ACA), also known as the Morita Array. Thanks to this array, ALMA can observe celestial objects from a broader perspective. In fact, while the main antenna array concentrates its observations on the smaller details, the Morita Array provides a visualization of the larger structures in the same objects. Together they provide a complete image of the source studied.
Asia’s main contributions to ALMA include:
Likewise, East Asia has funded the manufacture of Front End and Back End components by other ALMA partners for the ACA antennas, including receiver cartridges identical to those from the antennas in the ALMA main array.