Super-telescope is operational

Clem & Adri Bacri-Normier (

Astronomers have been using the ALMA-telescope for some time, but on Wednesday 13 March, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array officially went into operation. Atacama is the name of the desert, situated high in the mountains of Chile, where it is installed, Large Millimetre refers to the wavelengths studied by Alma, and "Array" alludes to the fact that it is a series of devices working in conjunction. Alma’s primary aim is to discover the origins of galaxies, stars and planets. It cost about one billion Euros.

Leiden astronomers Ewine van Dishoeck and Tim de Zeeuw were closely involved in the project, and the current director of Alma is Thijs de Graauw, Professor by special appointment of Astronomy, at Leiden University.

This image shows an aerial view of the Chajnantor Plateau, located at an altitude of 5000 meters in the Chilean Andes, where the array of ALMA antennas is located. The large antennas have a diameter of 12 metres, while 12 smaller antennas with a diameter of 7 metres make up the ALMA Compact Array (ACA). On the horizon, the main peaks from right to left are Cerro Chajnantor, Cerro Toco, and Juriques. This photo was taken in December 2012, four months prior to the ALMA inauguration.

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