New observatory in Chile boasts impressive technology

New observatory in Chile boasts impressive technology

The new observatory inaugurated last week here in northern Chile's Atacama desert is a showcase for cutting-edge technology that is expected to provide startling new insights.


Published: Tue 19 Mar 2013, 5:38 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:29 PM

Parabolic antennas of the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array) project are seen at the El Llano de Chajnantor in the Atacama desert, some 1730 km (1074 miles) north of Santiago and 5000 metres above sea level, on March 12, 2013. - Reuters

Perched 5,200 meters above sea level, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA, is the fruit of a decade of work and a $1.4 billion investment by North America, Europe and East Asia in partnership with Chile.

ALMA's 66 dish antennas work together as a single telescope to detect light that is invisible to the naked eye.

Signals from the individual antennas are merged and process by a custom-made supercomputer known as the ALMA Correlator.

"It's the most powerful computing machine there is in the world" with a capacity equal to that of 3 million normal computers, the person in charge of the Correlator, Alejandro Saez, said.

The advanced systems were built by companies from the countries participating in the ALMA project, including Spain, one of the 13 nations that form the European Southern Observatory.

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