What is ALMA telescope, that will soon get a ‘new brain’?

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Source: The post is based on the article “What is ALMA telescope, that will soon get a ‘new brain’?” published in Indian Express on 27th February 2023.

What is the News?

The (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) ALMA telescope is set to get software and hardware upgrades that will help it collect much more data and produce sharper images.

About the ALMA Telescope

It is a radio telescope comprising 66 antennas located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. It is a state-of-the-art telescope that studies celestial objects at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths. They can penetrate through dust clouds and help astronomers examine dim and distant galaxies and stars.

Founding members: It is an international partnership between various organisations in Europe, the U.S., Japan, Canada, Taiwan and the Republic of Korea in cooperation with the Republic of Chile.

What are the technical specifications of the ALMA Telescope?

The telescope has extraordinary sensitivity, which allows it to detect even extremely faint radio signals. The telescope consists of 66 high-precision antennas, spread over a distance of up to 16 km. Each of its 66 antennas is equipped with a set of receivers that are designed to detect specific ranges of wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum.

To combine the data collected by each antenna into a single image, ALMA uses a correlator.

Note: Correlator is a powerful supercomputer that processes the vast amounts of data collected by the antennas and creates detailed images of celestial objects. This allows astronomers to study distant galaxies, stars, and other celestial bodies.

What are the discoveries made by ALMA Telescope?

a) In 2013, ALMA discovered starburst galaxies that existed earlier in the universe’s history than previously thought, b) ALMA provided detailed images of a protoplanetary disc around a young star, HL Tauri, in 2014, which challenged existing theories about planetary formation, c) In 2015, the telescope helped scientists observe the Einstein ring phenomenon, where light from a galaxy or star passes by a massive object on its way to Earth, and d) More recently, as part of the Event Horizon Telescope project, it provided the first image of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy.

Why ALMA Telescope is located in Chile?

The millimetre and submillimetre waves observed by ALMA Telescope are very susceptible to atmospheric water vapour absorption on Earth. Hence, a) it is located at an altitude of 16,570 feet (5,050 metres) above sea level on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama Desert, b) Chile’s Atacama Desert is the driest place in the world. So, most of the nights here are clear of clouds and free of light-distorting moisture.

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