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News Release 11-212

ALMA Opens Its Eyes

Humanity’s most complex ground-based astronomy observatory opens for business

a colliding pair of spiral galaxies displaying a history of star making.

This image of a colliding pair of spiral galaxies displays a history of star making.

October 3, 2011

View a webcast with Kartik Sheth and Adam Leroy of NRAO and Brad Whitmore of STSI; video of the ALMA site in Chile; and a simulation of two colliding galaxies.

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Researchers presented details about an eagerly awaited new astronomical observatory during a live webcast last Thursday with the National Science Foundation and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

Astronomers Kartik Sheth and Adam Leroy of the NRAO's North American ALMA Science Center, and Brad Whitmore of the Space Telescope Science Institute, discussed details of the first scientific observing cycle with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array or ALMA. They explained how ALMA will contribute to understanding the universe.

The researchers also discussed the first test image released by the ALMA collaboration. The image, a composite of views of the "Antennae Galaxy" was taken with several different types of telescopes, including test data from ALMA.

The ALMA image reveals hidden starbirth nestled inside otherwise obscuring dust clouds. The Antennae galaxies are the nearest and youngest example of a prototypical merging galaxy.

Additional discussions centered on a description of astronomers' strong response to the availability of observing time on ALMA, life at the ALMA site, and how ALMA will evolve over coming months from its current complement of 16 radio telescopes to its final array of 66.

The NRAO issued a full press release on ALMA's first scientific observing cycle, a period called Early Science, and released ALMA test images of the Antennae Galaxies.


Media Contacts
Lisa Van Pay, NSF, (703) 292-8796, email:
John Stoke, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, (434) 244-6896, email:
Tania Burchell, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, (434) 244-6812, email:

Program Contacts
Philip John Puxley, NSF, (703) 292-7835, email:

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