The last of 66 antennas has arrived at the ALMA observatory in Chile, with the facility expected to be operating as a single telescope by the end of the year. Despite its incomplete nature, the telescope has already produced some impressive results.
ALMA resides high up in Chile's inhospitable Atacama desert region, where it observes the Universe at wavelengths in between the infra-red and radio regions of the spectrum. Here it is able to see the cold Universe, objects only a few degrees above absolute zero that include the very earliest stages of the formation of stars. It can also see far back into the history of the Universe, seeking out distant galaxies at early stages in their lifetimes.
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What Would Earth Look Like With Rings? It is precisely this question that inspired Kevin Gill, a software engineer who performs science data visualizations for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to create “Rings Over Earth”. Using vacation photos he has taken over the years, and then tweaking them with Photoshop and the 3-D animation/modeling software Maya, Gill was able to superimpose Saturn-like rings onto photographs of Earth’s skies. Image credit: Kevin Gill/Flickr
astronomicalwonders: ALMA under the MilkyWay This view shows several of the ALMA antennas and the central regions of the Milky Way above. In this wide field view, the zodiacal light is seen upper left and at lower left Mars is seen. Saturn is a bit higher in the sky towards the centre of the image. Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org)