£1 billion 'time machine' could reveal how the universe formed: Final antenna is added to Alma array to help explore the cosmos
- Last giant antenna for Alma recently arrived in Chile's Chajnantor Plateau
- Alma is the world’s largest land-based observatory and uses 66 antennae
- Alma's antennae are accurate enough to see a golf ball nine miles away
- Alma began full-scale operation in March and it has already spotted a star formation near the centre of the Milky Way's supermassive black hole
- Scientists say the Alma array is poised to reach its full potential next year
A £1 billion ($1.6 billion) 'time machine', which could reveal mysteries of the universe, is finally complete.
The last giant antenna for Alma, the world’s largest land-based observatory, recently arrived in Chile allowing scientists to peer deeper into the cosmos than ever before.
It is hoped it will allow astronomers to learn about our origins by peering back to almost the first moments after the universe was formed.
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A £1 billion 'time machine', which could finally reveal mysteries of the universe, is complete. The last giant antenna (pictured) for Alma, the world's largest land-based observatory, recently arrived in Chile allowing scientists to peer deeper into the cosmos than ever before
The Alma array is situated high on the Chajnantor Plateau, a remote area of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile at 16,400 feet (5,000 metres) above sea level.
There, the dryness and altitude create some of the best conditions for observing the night sky.
With the latest arrival, the observatory combines the forces of 66 radio antennae, most almost 40 feet (12 metres) in diameter.
Combined, they make the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (Alma) accurate enough to see a golf ball nine miles (15 km) away.
With the latest arrival, the observatory combines the forces of 66 radio antennae, most almost 40ft (12 metres) in diameter. Combined, they make the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (Alma) accurate enough to see a golf ball nine miles (15 kilometres) away
It is hoped Alma will allow astronomers to learn about our origins by peering back to almost the first moments after the universe was formed
Babak Tafreshi, one of the ESO Photo Ambassadors, has captured the antennae of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (Alma) under the southern sky in another breathtaking image
Alma is situated high on the Chajnantor Plateau, an area of the Atacama Desert in Chile
With all the antennae working in unison as a giant telescope, the observatory will provide astronomers with a window into the early universe.
This is where cosmic secrets wait to be discovered, said project director Pierre Cox, who added Alma is poised to reach its full potential next year.
‘Up to now Alma’s observations and data were published with 16 to 20 antennae, now we're going to have double that or more, hence there will be a jump in sensitivity: better, quicker and more data,’ Cox said.
I think there will be a real stream of scientific results in the coming months and years.’
The new dish is the 25th European antenna to be transported up to the observatory.
It will work alongside 25 other antennae from North America and four from East Asia, as well as 12 smaller 22ft (7 metre) dishes from East Asia.
Some of the Alma antennae bathed in red light. In the background there is the southern Milky Way on the left
The $1.6 billion telescope, which began full-scale operation in March, has already spotted galaxies expelling gas and a star formation near the centre of the Milky Way's supermassive black hole.
It also has captured the first image of an icy ring around a distant star.
By collecting radio waves rather than optical light, Alma can look through the dense dust clouds of deep space.
This will give astronomers a glimpse of galaxies from just after the Big Bang.
It can also look at how individual stars and planets are formed. This could shine a light on our creation as it is believed the elements spewed out by dying stars went on the seed the sun, the planets and, eventually, humans.
THE SECRET TO THE SUCCESS OF ALMA - HEIGHT AND DISTANCE
Radio telescope antennas of the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) project
The secret to Alma's incredible resolution comes from two factors: height and distance.
The observatory's highest receivers sit on a plateau some 16,500ft (5,000 metres) above sea level.
This is far above most of Earth's atmosphere and water vapour, which obscures observations. Astronomers working in Alma's facility at 9,500 feet (2,900 meters) must use supplemental oxygen for extended stays.
The system currently comprises about 50 functional antennas. When the array is finished, there will be 66 of these receivers that can be moved as far as 16km (9.9m) apart.
The antennae capture astronomical signals from the sky individually, then combine their results in a supercomputer to get precise information about where the signals come from.
Researchers say it is similar to how we use our two ears to locate sounds around us, but on a universe-size scale.
This high-resolution not only lets Alma observe young planetary systems, but also pin down hydrogen and life-building blocks in gas clouds. The array can also track the evolution of galaxies.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2661369/1-billion-time-machine-reveal-universe-formed-Final-antenna-added-Alma-array-help-explore-cosmos.html#ixzz352cVaqmR
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