The new ALMA radio telescope in Chili has captured star birth in new detail by combining a radio image with a visible light image. The Herbig-Haro object (small patches of nebulosity associated with newly born stars), revealed new detail by combining radio observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) with much shorter wavelength visible light observations from ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT), also located in Chile.
The ALMA observations (orange and green, lower right) of the newborn star reveal a large energetic jet moving away from us, which in the visible is hidden by dust and gas. To the left (in pink and purple) the visible part of the jet is seen, streaming partly towards us.
The ALMA radio telescope is the world’s most powerful telescope using submillimetre and millimetre frequencies. The antennas can be steered to an angular accuracy of 0.6 arcseconds (1/3600 of a degree), accurate enough to pick out a golf ball at a distance of 15 kilometres.
ALMA operates between 84 to 950 GHz (between 0.3 and 3.5 millimetres), where the atmosphere above the desert, the driest place on Earth, is largely transparent.
The array consists of 66, 12-meter and 7-meter dishes observing at millimeter and sub-millimeter wavelengths. Using interferometry, ALMA’s many antennas work together. Wolfram Research demonstrates Aperture Synthesis with VLA and ALMA telescope arrays.
It is an international partnership between Europe, the United States, Canada, East Asia and the Republic of Chile. Costing more than a billion US dollars, it is the most expensive ground-based telescope in operation. The array has been fully operational since March 2013.
The NTT (right) uses active optics. It’s main 3.58-metre mirror is flexible and actively adjusted during observations by actuators to preserve the optimal image quality. The secondary mirror position is also actively controlled in three directions.
NTT observations of stars orbiting the centre of our Milky Way helped determine the mass and the radius of its supermassive black hole.
The ALMA telescope, at an elevation of 16,500 feet, is the highest telescope array on Earth. It includes at least 66 radio telescopes that can be moved to span 10 miles of desert, creating nearly 71,000 square feet of radio light collecting area.
The Giant Magellan telescope will trump the Hubble in resolution by 10 times.
Planned for completion in 2020, it will consist of seven 8.4 m (27.6 ft) diameter primary segments, with the glass for a 27 foot mirror poured this month.
The Square Kilometre Array in development in Australia and South Africa, will have a total collecting area of approximately one square kilometre. It will operate over a wide range of frequencies and its size will make it 50 times more sensitive than any other radio instrument. It will require very high performance central computing engines and long-haul links with a capacity greater than the totality of current global Internet traffic. The construction phase alone will last from about 2013 to 2025.
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