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The ALMA Array Operations Site

31 December, 2009 / Read time: 1 minute

In this clip from 2009, former North American ALMA Project Director Dr. Adrian Russell introduces us to the second-highest building and the highest astronomical facility in the world, ALMA's Array Operations Site (AOS) Technical Building, sitting at over 16,500 feet above sea level.

The AOS building houses the correlator supercomputer, the central local oscillator, and other equipment beneath the site’s spectacularly clear skies. The ALMA correlator is one of the most powerful calculating machines known to the civilian world. 

The thin air at this elevation not only requires twice the normal airflow to cool the machine, but also affects human performance. While the AOS Technical Building is unmanned during routine ALMA operations, it took about 20 weeks of human effort there to unpack and install the correlator.

Credits: National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)