Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA)
ârast-e bozorg-e milimetri-ye âtâkâmâ (ALMA)
Fr.: Grand réseau millimétrique Atacama
One of the largest ground-based astronomy projects and a major new facility for world astronomy located on the plain of the → Chajnantor Chilean Andes, San Pedro de Atacama, some 5000 m above sea level. ALMA will initially comprise 66 high precision antennas, with the option to expand in the future. There will be an array of fifty 12 m antennas, acting together as an → interferometer to capture → millimeter and → submillimeter wavelengths of 0.3 to 9.6 mm. It will have reconfigurable baselines ranging from 15 m to 18 km. A compact array of 7 m antenna and few 12 m diameter antennas (ACA) will be used to measure the diffuse emission. Resolutions as fine as 0''.005 will be achieved at the highest frequencies. Construction of ALMA started in 2003 and will be completed in 2012. The ALMA project is an international collaboration between Europe, Japan, and North America in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the → European Southern Observatory (ESO). The first 12 m diameter antenna, built by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation for the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, was handed over to ESO in 2008. It will shortly be joined by North American and European antennas. ALMA will allow astronomers to study the cool Universe, i.e. the molecular gas and tiny dust grains from which stars, planetary systems, galaxies, and even life are formed.