From its key role in photographing the Messier 87 black hole at the center of the Milky Way to advances in the study of the origin of life in other parts of the universe, the ALMA radio telescope celebrates its 10th anniversary this Monday. A symbol of international cooperation in the world of science and astronomy.
radio telescope soul the largest in the world, located at an altitude of 5,000 meters atacama desert celebrates 10 years of life revealing many secrets of the sky, including the first photograph of a black hole.
On a dry brown plateau surrounded by crags, dozens of white metal giants break the landscape, moving their massive circular heads in different directions across the sky. Atacama Large Millimeter Wave Submillimeter Wave Array (ALMA) It makes up the widest telescope in the world.
In its first decade of observation, ALMA has advanced our knowledge of, for example, the creation of new planets, the origin of life in other parts of the universe, or supermassive black holes.
“Because the antennas can be placed in different positions, the telescope can be made larger or more compact, depending on scientific needs. Similarly, the amplitude of the image will be reduced and vice versa,” Nicholas Lira, the observatory’s communications coordinator, explained to EFE.
The signals from the antennas that make up ALMA are put together by a supercomputer and a mathematical model is applied to get a single composite image of them all.
ALMA is made possible thanks to the collaboration of about 20 countries, including the United States, Europe, Japan and Chile. This collaboration will also take place between several large observatories in different parts of the globe, allowing for unique reach. Astronomical discovery.
“ALMA often works in conjunction with other observatories around the world to connect signals to create giant Earth-sized telescopes.” Elizabeth Humphries, ALMA’s head of science, explained to EFE:
This is how, for example, the first-ever photograph of a black hole was taken. This picture combines signals from various observatories on Earth to create the equivalent of a telescope thousands of kilometers in diameter, using the same technique that ALMA combines signals. of an antenna known as an interferometer.
Observing a black hole from Earth is “like looking at a conventional pen hole in Chile from Spain,” Hugo Messias, one of the ALMA astronomers, told EFE.
“Achieving that milestone would not have been possible without international cooperation,” he added.
“Chemistry of Life”
ALMA was a revolution in astronomy ten years ago. But the scientific community is already working on a larger telescope that will expand the frontiers of knowledge that the Chilean observatory itself was able to traverse.
“Science is not black and white, it is progressing in small increments. There is always something beyond what we know, and human curiosity is virtually limitless. Human curiosity does not end with ALMA.” Lyra said.
Still not ALMA is preparing a major overhaul of its system for 2030. It replaces some components of the supercomputer and antenna to speed up the work of the observatory and improve the clarity of the data it acquires.
Humphreys explained that one of the observatory’s strengths is its ability to capture chemicals in space, and improvements to its machinery will increase that potential.
“What we want to find is more information about the chemistry of life and which of the systems we see in the universe are likely to have some form of life,” the scientists announced. bottom.
But if science is characterized by anything, it is the exploration of the unknown. I look for surprises. We collect data from many projects and sometimes you don’t know what you can get out of them. I love the surprise when I discover something I never imagined. What Humphries concluded is what I hope for ALMA in the future. “