The world’s largest telescope array officially opened Wednesday in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. The Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) consists of 66 huge antennas directed towards the night sky to gather data and images of neighboring stars and some of the most distant, ancient galaxies. Its telescopes will have better resolution than the famous Hubble Space Telescope, and they will allow astronomers to shed light on how stars are born and how they die.

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Located on a plateau at an altitude of 5000 meters, the project takes full advantage of Atacama’s climate. The desert is known as one of the best sites for space observation in the world, because the skies here are exceptionally clear and dry, and the high altitude puts the telescope above much of the moisture of Earth’s atmosphere, which typically blurs light.

The 66 antennas, ranging in diameter from 7 m to 12 m will be able to look at planets and stars in the darkest and most remote corners of the universe. The project was developed in collaboration between North America, Europe, East Asia. Researchers from these regions will have an advantage when it comes to using the equipment, with 10 percent of the telescope’s observing time reserved for Chilean scientists. The collected data will be processed using a cutting-edge supercomputer installed in the second highest facility in the world, according to scientists.

+ ALMA Observatory

Via New Scientist