ALMA Telescope Open For Business, Producing Photos

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The Antennae Galaxies are seen in this image made from the parabolic antennas of the ALMA
The Antennae Galaxies (also known as NGC 4038 and 4039) are seen in this image made from the parabolic antennas of the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array) project at the El Llano de Chajnantor in the Atacama desert, some 1,730 km (1,074 miles) north of Santiago and 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) above sea level, October 3, 2011. The first image made from ALMA was released on Monday to the media and the astronomy observatory has officially opened for astronomers. ALMA is being constructed by the ESO (European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere) with its partners NAOJ (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan) and NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory). ALMA will have 66 high precision antennas which will work together as a single giant telescope to study the universe, molecular gas, dust of stars, galaxies and planetary systems, the ESO said. Reuters

The Atacama Large Millimetre/sub-millimetre Array (ALMA) telescope is still under construction, but it is officially open for business for interested astronomers and producing images.

Researchers with ALMA, an international astronomy observatory, made the announcement on Monday.

Today marks the recognition of the successful coalition of thousands of people from all over the world all working with the same goal: to build the world's most advanced radio telescope to see into the Universe's coldest, darkest places, where galaxies and stars and perhaps the building blocks of life are created, ALMA director Thijs de Graauw said in a statement.

The photo released shows two colliding spiral galaxies, according to the space Web site Science 2.0.

What distinguishes the ALMA telescope from other telescopes is that it can allow people to see much further than they would if they were using visible-light and infrared telescopes.

The ALMA telescope consists of linked antennas that act as a single giant telescope. It currently has one-third of the 66 antennas expected upon completion.

The antennas sit on the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile.

The 'M' in ALMA stands for 'millimeter/submillimeter' waves, because ALMA views the universe in these long wavelengths of light, much longer than the optical light we see with our eyes, ALMA deputy project scientist Alison Peck said in a statement. With millimeter and submillimeter waves, we can watch star and planet formation, investigate astrochemistry, and detect the light that is finally reaching us from the Universe's earliest galaxies.

While ALMA is officially ready to be utilized by astronomers, there will be a bit of a waiting period. Approximately 100 project proposals were given the green light to use the facility during the first nine-months.

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