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ALMA Telescope


The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) — a radio telescope comprising 66 antennas located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile — is set to get software and hardware upgrades that will help it collect much more data and produce sharper images than ever before, the journal Science reported recently.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is ALMA?
  2. Why is ALMA located in Chile’s Atacama Desert?
  3. Notable Discoveries Made by ALMA

What is ALMA?

  • ALMA is a state-of-the-art telescope that studies celestial objects at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths.
  • It has 66 high-precision antennas spread over a distance of up to 16 km, each with a series of receivers tuned to specific ranges of wavelengths.
  • The antennas can be moved closer together or farther apart for different perspectives, resulting in never-before-seen imagery of deep space.
  • The correlator combines the input from individual antennas to produce a single image.

Why is ALMA located in Chile’s Atacama Desert?

  • ALMA is located at an altitude of 16,570 feet above sea level on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama Desert because the millimetre and submillimetre waves it observes are susceptible to atmospheric water vapour absorption on Earth.
  • The desert is the driest place in the world, making it an ideal location for examining the universe.
ALMA Upgrades:
  • ALMA is set to receive upgrades to its software and hardware, costing $37 million and taking around five years to complete.
  • The most significant upgrade will be the replacement of its correlator, a supercomputer that combines the input from individual antennas to produce highly detailed images of celestial objects.
  • The upgrades will double and eventually quadruple their overall observing speed.
Notable Discoveries Made by ALMA:
  • ALMA has made several notable discoveries since its inception.
  • In 2013, it discovered starburst galaxies earlier in the universe’s history than previously thought.
  • The telescope provided detailed images of the protoplanetary disc surrounding HL Tauri, transforming the previously accepted theories about planetary formation.
  • In 2015, ALMA helped scientists observe the Einstein ring in extraordinary detail. Recently, as part of the Event Horizon Telescope project, it provided the first image of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy.

-Source: Indian Express

November 2023