In Depth

A submillimeter building boom

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Science  26 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6340, pp. 790
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6340.790-a

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Summary

Astronomers were once blind to the submillimeter glow from far-off clouds of cold gas and dust. But in the late 1980s, new detectors opened their eyes to these ultrashort radio waves. Since then, early efforts have culminated in the $1.4 billion, 66-dish Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile, which opened in 2013. With its stunning view of dusty galaxies, planet-forming disks, and the early universe, ALMA has touched off a submillimeter building boom. As prices fall for detectors and the carbon fiber dishes that focus the waves, “it’s becoming relatively cheap to get into business,” says Heino Falcke, an astronomer at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.