Archive for ALMA

Con Alma

Posted in Jazz, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on March 14, 2013 by telescoper

Well, Herschel may be going blind but it seems that just as one observatory gets ready to close its eyes on the Universe, another one gets ready to open them. Yesterday saw the official opening of the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (known to its friends as ALMA). What better way to celebrate the opening of this remarkable observatory than with an appropriately-named piece of music.

Con Alma is an original composition by Dizzy Gillespie who plays it on this track made with his big band in 1954, a period when Dizzy was experimenting with various fusions of bebop with Latin-American rhythms. It’s a deceptively complicated tune, with lots of changes of key to keep everyone on their toes. It may be more Cuban than Chilean in influence, but that’s the closest I could think of!

Galaxies con Alma

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on October 3, 2011 by telescoper

It’s back to School with a vengeance today, so not much time for the blog. However, I couldn’t resist mentioning the fact that the European Southern Observatory’s Atacama Large Millimetre Array, known to its friends as ALMA, has at last opened its eyes. Or at least some of them. ALMA in fact is an interferometer which eventually will comprise 66 dishes,   working together to with baselines as long 16km to synthesize a single huge aperture. The preliminary results that have just been released were obtained using just 16 dishes so they only offer a taste of what the full ALMA will do when it’s completed in 2013.

ALMA works in the millimetre wave region of the spectrum, operating at wavelengths between 0.3 and 9.6 mm. The overlap with the  wavelength range probed by the Herschel Space Observatory together with its much higher resolution than Herschel, which is a single telescope of only 3.5m diameter, makes the two very complementary: Herschel is good for surveying large parts of the sky, because it has a large field of view, whereas ALMA can do high-resolution follow-up of selected regions.

Anyway, here is ALMA’s view of the Antennae Galaxies (left) shown next to an optical image taken with the Very Large Telescope (VLT).

The system consists of two galaxies so close together that they interact strongly with each other via enormous tidal forces, hence the disturbed structure. The coloured regions in the ALMA image show radiation emanating from carbon monoxide present in huge clouds both in and between the galaxies. Altogether these clouds contain several billion solar masses worth of gas which has never been viewed before.

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