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Inside the Technical Building at the ALMA Array Operations Site

31 December, 2009 / Read time: 2 minutes

In this footage from 2009, former North American ALMA Project Director Dr. Adrian Russell got a tour from former ALMA Site Development Manager, Eduardo Donoso, of the ALMA Array Operation Center's Technical Building. This building is the second-highest building in the world and houses ALMA's correlator, the fastest supercomputer in the world. 

On the first floor you'll find the technical rooms and office spaces, but the core of the building is where the communications room, correlator, and central local oscillator system are located. The digital correlator analyzes signals from ALMA and combines them to allow a computer to form an image. The calculating machine is the most powerful single purpose computer ever built. 

The ALMA correlator is one of two such systems in the ALMA complex. A second system, built by the Fujitsu company and delivered by NAOJ, provides independent correlation of the 16 antennas in the Atacama Compact Array (ACA) except for times when select ACA antennas are combined with the 50 more widely dispersed main array antennas. 

The air is thin at the 16,500 ft elevation of the Array Operations Site (AOS), so oxygen can be supplied to each room at the press of a button. 

Credits: National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)