ALMA nearly readyPosted: December 14, 2010
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I’m in Manchester for a few days this week at a workshop preparing for `Early Science’ with the new Atacama Large Milimetre Array (ALMA for short) that’s been under construction for several years now. The final telescope will consist of 66 linked antennas, but the current plan is to have about 16 in place by next year, and to let astronomers have a go on them to see how everything works!
As you can tell from its full name, ALMA is in the Atacama desert – a very high, very dry site in Chile. Observers won’t get to go out and see it in person, but I was lucky enough to see some of the prototype 12 metre antennas for it when we were both at the Very Large Array in 2006:
ALMA is going to be a fantastic instrument. The wavelengths at which it operates are ideal for revealing previously hidden details about how stars and galaxies form. It will even be able to see this sort of thing happening in some of the earliest galaxies in the Universe. It operates in a similar wavelength range to the Herschel Space Telescope, and complements it nicely – it will be able to have a very detailed look at interesting things Herschel finds in its large surveys.
I’m sure that by this time next year ALMA will have produced some impressive first light pictures and hopefully will be living up to everyone’s expectations. I’m looking forward to it.