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Giant ALMA Radio Telescope in Chile: Inauguration Day (Photos)

ALMA Telescope Dish

Clara Moskowitz/SPACE.com

ALMA, a new radio telescope array, is built high up in the Chilean Atacama desert, at an altitude of 16,400 feet (5,000 meters).

ALMA Telescope Array Grouping

Clara Moskowitz/SPACE.com

ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, is a grouping of 66 radio antennas that observe in unison to create an image as detailed as if it were made by a single telescope 10 miles (16 kilometers) wide.

ALMA Telescope's Giant Antennas

Clara Moskowitz/SPACE.com

ALMA's giant white antennas are made of steel and carbon fiber reinforced plastic, enabling them to be strong, yet light enough not to deform under their own weight.

ALMA Operations Support Facility in Chile

Clara Moskowitz/SPACE.com

ALMA's inauguration was held March 13 at its Operations Support Facility, a site at lower altitude than the telescope antennas, where scientists run the observatory's operations.

ALMA's Site in the Chilean Desert

Clara Moskowitz/SPACE.com

ALMA's site high in the dry Chilean desert puts it out of reach of much of the moisture of Earth's atmosphere, which blurs light coming in from the heavens.

ALMA 40-Foot-Wide Radio Antenna

Clara Moskowitz/SPACE.com

The surfaces of ALMA's 40-foot-wide (12 meters) radio antennas must be almost perfect, with no aberrations larger than 25 microns, or about the size of a human hair, across their surfaces.

ALMA's Antennas Are Multi-National

Clara Moskowitz/SPACE.com

ALMA is a collaboration between North America, Europe and East Asia, with the cooperation of Chile. The three contributing regions each built about a third of ALMA's antennas.

ALMA Observatory Inauguration Sign

Clara Moskowitz/SPACE.com

The inauguration of the ALMA observatory on March 13, 2013 celebrated the conclusion of 30 years of planning and 10 years of construction.

Three Dishes of ALMA Observatory

Clara Moskowitz/SPACE.com

The ALMA observatory is described by scientists as the most complex, ambitious telescope project in history.

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