On March 13, 2013, the ALMA Telescope in northern Chile will officially go online. ALMA stands for Atacama Large Millimeter/Sub Millimeter Array. And the telescope is very powerful – the most powerful yet constructed – perched in Chile’s high desert at an altitude of 16,500 feet, or 5,000 meters.
ALMA will explore places beyond imagination – the distant birthplaces of planets, stars, and galaxies centuries old – to help us understand our place in the cosmos. Astronomers call this new telescope ALMA, which is the Spanish word for soul.
According to the scientists, one nation alone couldn’t build ALMA. Working with the host country Chile, some of the largest observatories in the world joined together for ALMA. These include the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in North America, the European Southern Observatory, and observatories in Japan, Brazil and throughout Latin America.
Sixty-six large radio dishes connect together to form ALMA. These dishes are located 30 minutes by car from the town of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile – at the top of the world – at an altitude of 16,500 feet, or 5,000 meters.