ALMA celebrates 10 years of its first image with a contest to name its antennas
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ALMA celebrates 10 years of its first image with a contest to name its antennas

24 September, 2021 / Read time: 3 minutes

Humanity’s most complex terrestrial astronomical observatory, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), is about to celebrate ten years since it released its first image. On October 3, 2011, the image of the Antennae galaxies revealed a view of the Universe that cannot be observed with visible light and infrared telescopes, with only twelve antennas working together. Since then, thousands of scientists worldwide have competed to explore some of the Cosmos’ darkest, coldest, farthest, and most hidden secrets with this astronomical tool.

ALMA will hold a contest inviting the public to name its 66 antennas to celebrate this important anniversary. There will be two categories of names: one of ‘celestial bodies’ and the other of words in the Atacameño Kunza language, since ALMA is located in Atacameño territory, in the north of Chile, close to San Pedro de Atacama.

From Monday, September 27, a poll will be available on the ALMA website to vote on the most liked names. There will be more than 200 proposed names to choose from, and each will have a brief explanation. Voting will be open until 3.00 UT on Thursday, September 30th.

It is important to note that the public proposed the names through social networks and a web page created by ALMA to leave suggestions. Moreover, in the case of the terms in Kunza, a mailbox was installed in the main square of San Pedro de Atacama to receive suggestions from the people to complement the online ones. Also, a list was requested from the Council of Atacameño Peoples, who joined the initiative.

Once the polling closes, the most voted terms will be selected and announced on Friday, October 1, through an online event on Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. In addition to a short talk, three prizes will be raffled live in the activity among the participants.

Another commemorative activity will be the exhibition that will be installed in the Quinta Normal metro station in Santiago, which gives an account of the iconic discoveries of ALMA, its infrastructure, its workers, the natural and cultural environment in which it is located, its educational products for the family and students, among others. The exhibition can be visited next to the station ticket office, located in the Matucana 500 subway, from October 4 to 15. The display is also part of the Science Month celebrations in Chile.

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ALMA is a partnership of ESO (representing its member states), NSF (USA) and NINS (Japan), together with NRC (Canada), MOST and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ.

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