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November 19, 2009

New ALMA Antennas

The first two North American antennas of the Joint ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) Observatory, undergoing acceptance testing at the mid-level site. In the foreground is an "apacheta"--a historic marker used by the original inhabitants of the region to denote routes to llama grazing areas in the Chilean altiplano. The observatory is being assembled high in the Chilean Andes.

When completed early next decade, ALMA will consist of 66 antennas that astronomers will use to study the formation of stars and planets and reveal distant galaxies in the early universe. Researchers will be able to move the antennas--each weighing about 100 tons--to different positions in order to reconfigure the ALMA telescope. This repositioning will be carried out by two custom-designed transporters, each of which is about 33 feet wide and 66 feet long, and has 28 wheels.

ALMA is a partnership between the scientific communities of East Asia, Europe and North America, with Chile. ALMA's North American partners are led by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada and the National Science Council of Taiwan. To learn more, visit the ALMA website. (Date of Image: October 2008)

Credit: Dr. Kathie L. Olsen, National Science Foundation

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