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First steps of ALMA – The Atacama Large Millimeter Array

15 November, 2015 / Read time: 2 minutes

This video, nearly 15 minutes long and produced in 2004, showcases the efforts made to realize the creation of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile. It begins with beautiful scenes of San Pedro de Atacama and its surroundings, where the flora and fauna of the area can be appreciated. Additionally, the Chajnantor Plateau can be seen, where the antennas would later be placed at an altitude of over 5000 meters.

The video continues with a brief history of how we became capable of observing the universe through a new wave detection technique called radio astronomy. An animation illustrates how the 66 antennas of ALMA would be positioned, as well as explaining how they work in their different configurations, either to see at better resolution or at a greater distance.

ALMA is a project that is possible thanks to the global collaboration among various countries and institutions. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) representing North America, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) representing its member states, and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).

To conclude, the video shows how different institutions design and test the first prototype antennas, while simultaneously, detailed observational and meteorological tests are conducted on the Chajnantor Plateau to gain a better understanding of the unique characteristics of the area that make it the most promising site for this major project, and one of the best in the world for the study of the cosmos.

European Southern Observatory (ESO)