Salutations fellow Astrogeeks,
Sad news this week as it comes to our attention that ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/sub-millimetre Array) is now closed for business for the unforeseeable future, this comes from a recent labour dispute with the observatory workers performing strike action; this is the problem when Science and politics collide, no matter how big or small the problem. All astronomers that were present at the site have been ordered to return to their respective homes, however despite this there is still data analysis that can be performed ‘off-site’ from the so called ‘cycle 1’ phase; observations were made with half of the total array collecting area (33 dishes instead of the total 66).
ALMA, atop the very high and oxygen starving altitudes (5km) of the Atacama desert in northern Chile, is a massive radio array, which when finished will have a total of 66 working dishes acting as one massive dish. At this altitude the array can analyse incoming infrared radiation, as the air is thin enough to allow it to pass through into the atmosphere at this altitude, the massive array will allow us to resolve to a greater degree of detail than ever before when it’s at full operational capacity, even now running half of the array it’s already bringing back very valuable data.
So, it’s a frustrating point in time, as the strike comes close to the final stages of completing the array in its entirety, however despite this minor setback there is already some exciting data beaming from the array; hopefully helping us to gain a greater understanding the processes and mechanisms that help cause the more massive stars to be born, as well as to greater understand the formation and evolution of galaxies. Hopefully the ‘table discussions’ between the Union and the legal employer of the Chilean staff, Associated Universities Incorporated (AUI), can be settled and completion of the Array will continue, so it is finished by the end of the year.
Speak to you soon fellow astrogeeks,