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ALMA telescope : World’s largest space observatory opens in Chile

Llano Chajnantor, Mar 14 (): ALMA telescope, the world’s largest ground-based observatory opens on Wednesday in the super-arid desert of northern Chile with almost no humidity or vegetation at an altitude of 5,000 meters, to wield unprecedented power to probe the universe.

With the project cost of US $1.4bn (£1bn), the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array promises to start a new era in Science by offering insight into unexplored stars and galaxies.

ALMA, short for the Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array, an acronym which means “soul” in Spanish is a joint effort among North American, European and Asian agencies.

The project director, Thijs de Graauw said the ambition of astronomical project ALMA is to help us answer where we come from or whether we are alone in the Universe. The observatory was made at 30 years of planning and 10 years of construction.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who visited ALMA for the occasion, said that they were very proud to inaugurate this great project in which so many people have worked so hard for so long.

The array comprises of 66 giant radio telescopes and are located more than 5.000m high in the Atacama Desert. That makes it the second-highest construction in the world, after a train station in the Himalayas.

The telescopes are scattered on a large field where rain is very rare; the dry atmosphere facilitates good observations. It is designed to observe the sky in millimetre and sub-millimetre wavelengths.

The diameter of the giant radio telescopes ranges from 7 to 12 metres, which gather radio waves from space rather than optical light. The information is then processed by a supercomputer.

The telescopes are so powerful that they will be able to look through the dense dust clouds of deep space, allowing astronomers a glimpse of galaxies from 12 billion years ago.

Upon completion, the cutting edge telescope will become the most powerful in the world, with resolution ten times higher than the Very Large Array (VLA) and five times finer than the Hubble Space Telescope.