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Final Antenna Delivered to ALMA

October 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: ESO/C. Pontoni

Credit: ESO/C. Pontoni

The final antenna for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) project has just been handed over to the ALMA Observatory. The 12-metre-diameter dish was manufactured by the European AEM Consortium and also marks the successful delivery of a total of 25 European antennas — the largest ESO contract so far.

The antenna is the 66th and final antenna to be delivered to the observatory. North America has provided 25 12-metre antennas, while East Asia has delivered 16 (four 12-metre and twelve 7-metre). By the end of 2013, all 66 ultra-precise millimetre/submillimetre-wave radio antennas are expected to be working together as one telescope, in an array that will stretch for up to 16 kilometres across the Chajnantor Plateau in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.

This delivery of the last antenna now completes the ALMA antenna construction phase [1] and provides all 66 antennas for science use, marking the beginning of a new era of discoveries in astronomy. “This is an important milestone for the ALMA Observatory since it enables astronomers in Europe and elsewhere to use the complete ALMA telescope, with its full sensitivity and collecting area,” says Wolfgang Wild, the European ALMA Project Manager.

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Molecular Hydrogen Formation Makes Dust Spin

October 3, 2013 Leave a comment

In a paper published in the Oct. 1, 2013, issue of The Astrophysical Journal, an integrated team of observers and theoreticians led by USRA astronomer Dr. B-G Andersson, has used telescopes in Spain, Hawaii, Arizona, and New Mexico, to show – for the first time – that intense molecular hydrogen (H2) formation leads to an increase in the amount of polarization seen when starlight passes through dust clouds in the interstellar medium.

“While interstellar polarization has been known since 1949, the physical mechanisms behind grain alignment have been poorly understood until recently,” said Dr. Andersson. “These observations form part of a coordinated effort to – after more than 60 years – place interstellar grain alignment on a solid theoretical and observational footing.”

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