Chile: World's Most Powerful Telescope


Scientists and engineers prepared on Tuesday (March 12) for the official inauguration of the world's most powerful observatory, a field of antennas high in Chile's Atacama desert that make up the ALMA telescope.

Here at 5,000 meters above sea level, ALMA, the world's largest radio telescope, has been functioning at limited capacity since 2011.

But now 50 of the antennas, which can be arranged over a 10-kilometre radius to maximize their efficiency, will finally be working together.

The $1.3 billion ALMA observatory promises to probe deeper into space than any other telescope.

Giannini Marconi is among those who suffers the inhospitable conditions of the high desert to get a chance to peer deeper into space than ever before.

"It's a milestone because it's the largest observatory built in the world up until now," Marconi said.

Thijs de Graauw is the director of ALMA, short for Atacama Large Millimeter Array.

He said ALMA will eventually have 66 antennas, but officials aren't sure when the whole project will be complete.

"We're celebrating that we have more than 50 antennas in operation. We took that number because to have all 66 finished could take a little bit longer because you know the end of the project is very hard to sharply plan and define," he said.

ALMA will allow astronomers to study wavelengths invisible to the human eye, according to ALMA officials.

When functioning at full capacity, the telescope will produce images up to ten times sharper than NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

It will study light from the coldest and darkest corners of the universe, where galaxies are formed and stars are born.

The high altitude and clear, cloudless skies of the Atacama desert provide the ideal conditions for observation.

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