ALMA started its scientific operations in September 2011 while still under construction. Since then, it has achieved numerous discoveries.
The first scientific image published by ALMA on October 3, 2011, taken when it had only 12 antennas in operation, shows the galaxies from the Antennas like never before, revealing massive concentrations of gas in the collision zones, a rich reserve of matter for future generations of stars.
In April 2012, ALMA made another discovery: After pointing only a quarter of its antennas towards one of the brightest stars in the sky, named Fomalhaut, a group of astronomers obtained an unprecedented image of the disc surrounding the star, orbiting right between two exoplanets.
That same year, scientists observing with ALMA found sugar molecules in the gas surrounding a young star similar to the Sun. By detecting the wave spectra unique to each molecule, similar to a fingerprint, for the first time, astronomers detected glycolaldehyde near a star, which proves that certain chemical elements necessary for life may have already existed in the Solar System when the planets formed.
Soon ALMA reached another scientific milestone when it revealed a surprising spiral structure surrounding the giant red star R Sculptoris. These results were published in the prestigious scientific journal Science.
ALMA’s first long-baseline campaign, which moved the antennas up to 15 kilometers apart, achieving the highest angular resolution (detail) to date, obtained one of the most outstanding images. This campaign produced exceptional results, such as the images of the protoplanetary disk in HL Tau, the Einstein Ring in SPD.81, and the observation of the asteroid Juno.
But the very most noteworthy discovery released by ALMA and one of the most important for global astronomy was the one released in 2019 along with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) showing the first image of a black hole.
In its first decade of operations, discoveries by scientists around the world achieved with ALMA abound.