The Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA)

(Credit: ESO)

The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA), located in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile at an altitude of over 5000m, is one of the largest ground-based astronomical projects in the next decade. The facility will combine sixty-six antennas in total, fifty-four 12 m diameter and twelve 7 m diameter, to form an interferometric imaging array.

ALMA was officially opened in March 2013; the instrument will provide an unprecedented sensitivity and spatial resolution at millimetre and sub-millimetre wavelengths. It will be used to detect and study the earliest and most distant galaxies, and probe dust-obscured regions which are the birthplace of stars and planets.

The project is an international collaboration between Europe, North America and East Asia. RAL is contributing to key areas of ALMA construction technology - cryogenics, photonics and receiver integration and test, the latter though hosting the European Front End Receiver Integration Centre (FEIC). RAL also hosts the ALMA UK (link opens in a new window) Project Office which is responsible for overseeing the UK technical activities.

Antennae Galaxies composite of ALMA and Hubble observations

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