Dwight Peck's personal website

Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA)

This text is all ripped from the ESO Web site, http://www.eso.org/.

The European Southern Observatory is an intergovernmental, European organisation for astronomical research. It has eleven member countries. ESO operates astronomical observatories in Chile and has its headquarters in Garching, near Munich, Germany.

February 2007 -- We are happy to announce the appointments of the remaining Key Staff of the Joint ALMA Office (JAO): Prof. Richard Hills as the ALMA Project Scientist, and Dr. Alison Peck as the Deputy Project Scientist. Richard Hills is Professor of Radio Astronomy, and a member of the Astrophysics Group, in the Physics Department of Cambridge University, UK. His work is well known to all who are in the field of millimeter and sub-millimeter-wave astronomy. Among the many topics that he has worked on with great distinction, Prof. Hills is especially well known as an expert in radio astronomical instrumentation, telescopes and interferometry.

Dr. Alison Peck is a staff member of the Sub-Millimeter Array (SMA) at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA, USA. Dr. Peck is responsible for all science and observer scheduling at the SMA telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea, HI. As such, her responsibilities range from designing and implementing a system of dynamic scheduling, optimizing data taking and reduction procedures to outreach activities. We look forward to their leadership in, among other matters, the science commissioning and science verification of ALMA.


The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), one of the largest ground-based astronomy projects of the next decade, is a major new facility for world astronomy. ALMA will be comprised of a giant array of 12-m submillimetre quality antennas, with baselines of several kilometres. An additional, compact array of 7-m and 12-m antennas is also foreseen. Construction of ALMA started in 2003 and will be completed in 2010. The ALMA project is an international collaboration between Europe, Japan and North America in cooperation with the Republic of Chile.

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA, is an international collaboration to develop a world-class telescope array to study the universe from a site in the foothills of Chile's Andes Mountains. Each of ALMA's antenna dishes will measure 12 m wide. The ALMA antennas will be movable. At its largest, the array will measure 14 km, and at its smallest, only 150 m. Its receivers will cover the range from 30 to 950 GHz. The ALMA correlator, a specialized computer that combines the information received by the antennas, will perform an astounding 16,000 million-million (1.6x1016) operations per second. An additional, compact array of 7-m and 12-m antennas is also foreseen. Construction of ALMA started in 2003 and will be completed in 2012; it will become incrementally operational from 2010 on.

The ALMA project is a partnership between Europe, Japan and North America in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by ESO, in Japan by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences in cooperation with the Academia Sinica in Taiwan and in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of Japan by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc.

ALMA is located on the high-altitude Llano de Chajnantor (5000 m elevation), east of the village of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. The land has been given in concession to CONICYT (The Chilean National Commission for Science and Technology) by the "Ministerio de Bienes Nacionales" (Ministry of National Assets). It has also been declared a national reserve for science because of its unique capabilities for astronomical research. ALMA's location in the Atacama Desert is one of the highest, driest places on Earth, making it ideal for astronomical research at millimetre wavelengths, which are absorbed by atmospheric moisture. When completed (in 2011), ALMA will be the largest and most capable imaging array of telescopes in the world.

ALMA will be the largest ground-based astronomy project of the next decade after VLT/VLTI, and, together with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), one of the two major new facilities for world astronomy possibly coming into operation by the end of the next decade.

The comprehensive description of the exciting science that can be done with ALMA was presented in the article "The Atacama Large Millimeter Array" in the March 2002 Issue of ESO Messenger. ALMA will detect and study the earliest and most distant galaxies, the epoch of the first light in the Universe. It will also look deep into the dust-obscured regions where stars are born to examine the details of star and planet formation. In addition to these two main science drivers the array will make major contributions to virtually all fields of astronomical research.

For observations at millimetre and submillimetre wavelenghts to be possible the atmosphere above the telescope must be transparent. This requires a site that is high and dry, and a high plateau in the Atacama Desert of Chile, probably the world's driest, is ideal - the next best thing to outer space for these observations.

What it's going to look like when it's finished.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 22 February 2007.


Alison Beth Peck