News FocusAstronomy

First Global Telescope Opens an Eye on the Cold Universe

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Science  30 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6051, pp. 1820-1823
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6051.1820

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This month, astronomers will test-drive an instrument that will give them a new view of the universe of cold things. The Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) will focus on a small and little-studied portion of the electromagnetic spectrum sandwiched between microwaves and infrared light. Such radiation is emitted by objects between 10 and 50 kelvin. But ALMA is more than just a bigger, better telescope. The project marks the first time astronomers from across the world have worked together to build a truly global facility. ALMA's principal partners are the United States, Japan, and the European Southern Observatory, which represents 14 European nations plus Brazil. Those three are joined by Canada and Taiwan as minor partners plus Chile as host. Together, they are spending roughly $1 billion to build 66 receiving dishes in a reconfigurable array spanning as much as 16 kilometers.