On March 13, 2023, astronomers around the world will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA), the world’s largest radio telescope.
Over the past decade, ALMA’s international collaboration—led by the US National Science Foundation’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ)—has revolutionized our understanding of the unfolding universe. His secrets, from the formation of planets, stars, and galaxies to deciphering the chemistry of the universe, and even participating in taking the first pictures of black holes.
ALMA’s decade of success preceded early science observations in 2011, nearly two full years before the telescope opened. ALMA’s testing period yielded complex and beautiful images revealed star formation The violent galaxy mergers in the Antennae galaxies are at a level of detail not achieved by other telescopes on Earth. These pre-opening notes allowed ALMA to evolve into what it is today.
“Since its debut, ALMA has changed not only our understanding of the universe, but also the way we look at it,” said Tony Beasley, NRAO Director and AUI Vice President for Radio Astronomy.
“In order to look deeper into the universe and see things that no other telescopes can see with such clarity, such as water hidden in the disks of young stars, Giant black hole In the heart of the Milky Way, we have continually developed the latest technology, including some of the fastest supercomputing processors in the world. ”
ALMA consists of 66 antennas, spread over a distance of 16 kilometers – nearly 10 miles – on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes at an altitude of 5,000 meters – or 16,404 feet – above sea level. The technology that makes the telescope so special is supported by an international collaboration of 21 countries from across North America, Europe and East Asia. NRAO’s Central Development Laboratory (CDL) is responsible for developing the Band 6 receiver, ALMA’s most scientifically produced receiver, approved for upgrades in 2021.
ALMA was also approved earlier this year to develop a new central link and digital transmission system, upgrades that will eventually increase system bandwidth fourfold, and will be implemented by NRAO and several other partners. This technology, and other innovations like it, have powered ALMA scientists used to produce more than 3,000 Scientific publications to go on a date. That’s roughly one post per day for a decade.
“ALMA has captured the world’s imagination since it revealed its first images more than a decade ago, opening new windows on the universe that could not have been opened otherwise,” said Karen Marongiel, chief operating officer of the US National Science Foundation. “Our commitment to ALMA now and in the future is the same as it was then: developing technology that opens up and expands our knowledge of the Milky Way and every other galaxy in our universe.”
Among ALMA’s most notable contributions are the first clear images of planet formation, observed around the young star HL Tau by scientists from ALMA’s partner regions and led by NRAO in 2014, and the supermassive black holes M87* and SgrA*, observed with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). EHT) in 2019 and 2022, respectively.
“ALMA has changed our understanding of the universe and opened up new frontiers for research,” said Sean Dougherty, ALMA Director. “We are very proud of the achievements of the past decade and excited about the discoveries over the next 10 years.”
National Science Foundation
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