Into Deepest Space: The Birth of the ALMA Observatory is an independent documentary about the hardships and eventual achievements of all those involved with ALMA from conception to implementation.
“It’s so far beyond any [existing] capability in the millimeter domain," said astronomer Ethan Schreier, president of Associated Universities Inc., which oversaw North America’s contribution to ALMA. "There’s nothing that will compete with this for a very long time. When you introduce a totally new capability, you always discover new things that you don’t predict." [source]
A decade in the making, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array was built atop the Chajnantor plateau (16,570 feet (5,050 meters) above sea level) in order to provide the clearest window to the universe. ALMA will reveal early galaxy formation and peer beyond the interstellar/planetary dust clouds hiding planetary formation in action. A product of North America, Europe, and East Asia with the cooperation of Chile, this is what happens when you collaborate effectively across artificial borders for the sake of exploration and discovery. The dishes themselves weigh around 100 tons each, comprised of ultra-stable CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic) for the reflector base, possessing reflecting panels of rhodium-coated nickel.
ALMA Now a Full-Fledged Observatory (Universe Today)
ALMA will observe in millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths (submillimeter light has slightly shorter wavelengths than millimeter light, whose wavelengths are measured in millimeters). These ranges fall along the boundary between the radio and microwave bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, with longer wavelengths than optical light. This band of light allows astronomers to probe into the dark cores of gas clouds to study star and planet formation, and to collect distant light that’s been shifted toward the red end of the spectrum.
ALMA turns its eyes to Centaurus A (NRAO)
Formalhaut: Earth-Sized Planets Only 25 Light Years Away? (science2.0)
The electronic detector or, “front end” that amplifies/converts the radio waves collected per each antenna must be stabilized at 4 degrees Kelvin (- 452 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 269 degrees Celsius) for prevention of introducing noise to the signal. It’s a pristine engineering feat. Costing $1.4 billion (split across North America, Europe, and East Asia), whereby $500 million was contributed by U.S. taxpayers. [source]
Sentinel in the cosmic darkness (Pesquisa)
ALMA is also featured in the IMAX film Hidden Universe 3D and continuously heralded as a catalyst for the field of astrochemistry. Watch ALMA at work and browse my archive of related posts
The acronym ALMA was provided due to the Spanish meaning of the Italian word Alma, meaning “soul.” The Atacama Millimeter/submillimeter Array was designated its name because the astronomers/astrophysicists state the observatory will peer into stars’ souls.
“Every single field you can think of, from our solar system to star formation of all masses in our galaxy and nearby galaxies, to even detecting light from the first stars that formed…I don’t think there’s any field of astronomy that will remain untouched by the advent of ALMA.”
— Dr. Crystal Brogan, Astronomer, National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)
More on ALMA here…