Atacama Large Millimeter Array

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Atacama Large Millimeter Array

(ah-tă-kah -mă) (ALMA) A large international project to construct a millimeter wavelength radio telescope in Llano de Chajnantor, near San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile. The array comprises 64 separate dishes, each 12 meters in diameter, that can be arranged in a number of configurations with effective sizes of 150 m to 10 km, allowing ALMA to reach angular resolutions of up to 10 milliarcseconds. The altitude of the site (5000 m) ensures good atmospheric transparency at a number of wavebands between 10 mm and 0.350 mm. It will contribute to a number of fields of study including cosmology, extragalactic astronomy, star formation, molecular clouds and planetary science. Following completion of the design and development phase of the project in 2002, construction of the array began in Feb. 2003. Although ALMA is not scheduled to be completed until 2012, initial astronomical observations are planned for 2007.