ALMA to put NASA Space Apps Challenge participants to the test once again

ALMA to put NASA Space Apps Challenge participants to the test once again

7 April, 2014 / Read time: 3 minutes

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) will once again take part in the NASA Space Apps Challenge on April 12 and 13. The event brings together professionals and creative young people who develop applications to solve earthly and space challenges in a period of just 36 hours. Having been a part of the challenge for the first time in 2013, ALMA returns this year with new tests for the participants.

The global event takes place simultaneously in 94 cities and 47 countries, and Santiago is one of the three venues in South America.  This year, ALMA will include for the first time challenges that promote awareness of the observatory and its science as well as some technological challenges.

To raise awareness of the observatory, one of the challenges will consist of creating an augmented reality application that shows, in 3D, the location in real time of the ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor Plateau. The other challenges will consist of adding images produced by ALMA to Stellarium, an open-code software for exploring the Universe, and creating a virtual tour through the discoveries made by the observatory, including a panoramic image of the antennas at Chajnantor.

"Last year we had excellent interaction with the participants and the results of that work motivated us to return and offer new ALMA challenges," said Jorge Ibsen, head of the ALMA Computing Department. Last year, the participants created a prototype for analyzing diagnostic files produced by the observatory, in order to better understand the types of errors recorded in observatory operations and their frequency.

As for the scientific challenges, this year the goal is improve the prototype generated last year, as well as to create mobile applications to facilitate tasks at the observatory, such as visualizing the movement of the antennas. "These are areas of interest for ALMA operations, and therefore we hope the applications can be used in day-to-day work at the observatory,"Ibsen added.

Three ALMA software engineers will accompany the participants in the challenges to provide support and answer questions, and finally give their verdict as members of the jury. The participants can also exchange ideas with ALMA software engineers.

Apart from the ALMA challenges, almost 50 other challenges were announced by NASA in five categories: terrestrial observation, technology in space, robotics, space flight and asteroids.

All of the developers, engineers, designers and creative young people who want to be a part of this adventure can register, at no charge, at The event will take place on April 12 and 13 at the San Joaquín campus of the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María in Santiago.

Nicolás Lira 
Education and Public Outreach Assistant
Joint ALMA Observatory
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56 2 467 6519
Email: [email protected]