ALMA, the world’s largest radio telescope, in the heart of Atacama, northern Chile, is seeking to double its capacity to take pictures of the universe by 2030. After closing his eyes during the COVID-19 pandemic, his director, Canadian astrophysicist Sean Dougherty, said.
The goal of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), is to focus 66 antennas located more than 5,000 meters above sea level on the Chajnantor Plain, in this Chilean desert, to achieve advanced technology Images of the universe are better than those recently published of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
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“We hope to ideally increase the bandwidth of the telescope systems by four, Which means we can double our imaging ability, and the kind of images we’ve seen last week will be more accurate and dense and therefore more detailed,” says Dougherty.
After being closed for six months during the pandemic, ALMA has again resumed its sky observation activities and resumed internationally developed astronomical projects. ALMA needs to double its sensitivity when it comes to reproducing the images captured by its 66 antennas (54 by 12 by 12 meters in diameter), whose signals are fused together to act as a huge telescope.
“Alma is unique in that it is a very large and sensitive telescope. We can move our antennas as close as ten meters and even 16 km. This gives us the ability to observe a wide range of resolution, and that means detail,” says Dougherty.
In addition to the technical capability of its antennas – jointly built with the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and Japan’s National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) – the observatory is located in a unique area. place in the world.
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“Being in Chile in the highlands at 5,000 meters (above sea level) puts us above most of the water in the atmosphere. In addition, the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places in the world.
it is Alma is, by far, the most unique millimeter structure in the world”, emphasizes the project manager. The white antennas stand out in the height of the Andes mountain range, In the center of the landscape is orange and ocher Mars contrasting with the pure blue sky, one of the clearest skies in the world for astronomical observation.
The Atacama Desert, the driest in the world according to experts, helps dry it out to avoid distortions caused by moisture in the atmosphere, explains Francisco Gonzalez, maintenance supervisor for antennas, which wait until 2023, to ten years after their installation, an exceptional individual review.
Greater monitoring abilityThe 66 antennas contain nearly 600 sites over 5,000 meters in height that move through in a 100-tonne supertanker and 28 wheels based on the needs of every global study requesting ALMA use, working with 22 countries.
“One realizes that one leaves a legacy for posterity by the fact of working here. I am one of the little gears that drives all these beautiful machines from ALMA,” says conveyor operator Patricio Saavedra, 45, after moving one of the large antennas.
France Press agency
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