The two telescopes of the Array Operations Site interferometer in the Atacama region of Chile. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Alvaro Quintana and Jose Olivares.
First fringes with ALMA
19 November 2009
A team of astronomers and engineers at the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) have made the first observations linking radio signals from two telescopes in the array at the observatory’s "high site", which is at an altitude of 5000 metres in the Andes Mountains of Chile.
The University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics hosts the UK's ALMA Regional Centre and carried out technology development on the optical fibre systems linking the 66 telescopes which will form the final array.
These observations used the full suite of the production equipment that has been developed for ALMA, including two high-precision 12-metre diameter antennas and sophisticated electronic systems for receiving and correlating the signals. This is the first time that all these complex items, almost all of which are at the leading edge of technology, have been used together as a complete system.
More information on first fringes with ALMA.
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile.
- ALMA will be a premier tool for studying the first stars and galaxies that emerged from the cosmic "dark ages" billions of years ago. These objects now are seen at great cosmic distances, with most of their light stretched out to millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths by the expansion of the Universe.
- In the more nearby Universe, ALMA will provide an unprecedented ability to study the processes of star and planet formation. Unimpeded by the dust that obscures visible-light observations, ALMA will be able to reveal the details of young, still-forming stars, and is expected to show young planets still in the process of developing.
- In addition, ALMA will allow scientists to learn in detail about the complex chemistry of the giant clouds of gas and dust that spawn stars and planetary systems.
The UK ALMA Regional Centre
The UK ALMA Regional Centre (UK ARC) provides support for UK scientists using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international collaboration between North American, Chilean, European and East Asian astronomy organisations.
The UK ARC node provides direct user support to the UK community for all aspects of using ALMA, from proposal planning to advanced data reduction and interpretation techniques. ALMA will be a new and complex instrument to use, even for those with sub-mm experience and the majority of users will benefit from face-to-face support provided by a dedicated team at a central support facility. In particular, the UK ARC brings together essential experience in high-resolution radio interferometry, developed over many years of experience with MERLIN, VLBI and VLA, to complement the existing UK expertise in single-dish sub-mm astronomy.
The UK ARC is a STFC-funded collaborative project between the University of Manchester, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) and the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The UK ARC is hosted at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA) at the University of Manchester.
Dr Anita Richards & Dr Tom Muxlow
email: alma "at" jb.man.ac.uk
mccool "at" skatelescope.org
Prof. Ralph Spencer
ralph.spencer "at" manchester.ac.uk