ALMA and its Partners Celebrate 10 Years of Groundbreaking Science

13. března 2023

13 March 2023 marks the tenth anniversary of the world’s largest radio telescope—the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which ESO is a partner. Over the past decade, ALMA has revolutionised our understanding of the Universe by revealing new insights into the formation of planets, stars, and galaxies; deciphering the chemistry of the Cosmos; and has been a crucial component in obtaining the first images of black holes.

To mark this milestone, ALMA celebrates today with Chilean authorities, ambassadors, representatives of the scientific community and local communities at the observatory site near San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. The ceremony and an accompanying art performance will be live streamed through ALMA Social Networks and website.

"ALMA has transformed our understanding of the Universe and opened new research frontiers," said Dr Sean Dougherty, Director of ALMA. "We are very proud of the accomplishments of the past decade and excited about the discoveries over the next ten years."

Since its inauguration in 2013, the astronomical community has produced more than 3000 scientific publications using ALMA data, with groundbreaking discoveries ranging from forming planets and stars to detecting complex organic molecules in the Universe’s early years. One of ALMA’s best-known achievements was its contribution to the Event Horizon Telescope project, which captured the first image of a black hole in the centre of the M87 galaxy and also the one in the centre of the Milky Way.

ALMA’s success is due to its cutting-edge technology developed through an international collaboration of 21 countries from North America, Europe, and East Asia. The telescope consists of 66 antennas, spread over 16 kilometres on the Chajnantor plateau of the Chilean Andes, 5,000 metres above sea level. A partnership of ESO, NAOJ, and NRAO operates ALMA, whose observations have provided valuable data to astronomers worldwide to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the Universe.

ESO has been a key stakeholder in the planning and development of ALMA since its inception, most notably providing 25 of the 66 antennas. One of the reasons why ALMA is such a powerful telescope is its ability to change, repositioning its antennas to carry out different astronomical observations. Each antenna weighs over 100 tonnes, and they are relocated with two enormous transporters provided by ESO, each 20 metres long, 10 metres wide and 6 metres high. Various European institutions collaborated to develop several of ALMA's 10 receivers — the detectors that capture radio waves from space. ESO also provided the ALMA residencia, which offers pleasant living conditions for the staff working temporarily on site in the harsh Atacama Desert. Finally, ESO contributes to the joint operations of the facility with the other partners and acts as the focal point for liaison with the European science community

ALMA is an integral part of ESO’s suite of world-leading observatories,” said Xaiver Barcons, ESO Director General. “It complements the Very Large Telescope, one of the most powerful and productive telescopes in the optical range since 25 years, by delivering fantastic science at sub/millimetre wavelengths. ALMA is an excellent example of what we can achieve with international collaboration in science. An endeavour like ALMA would have simply not been possible for one country alone. The many scientific successes ALMA achieved in its first ten years of operation show us that working together is the best way to drive scientific progress worldwide.

To mark this milestone, ALMA is hosting a series of events during 2023, which kick off today at the observatory site. The participants will renew the "Tribute to Mother Earth" ceremony, performed by a local community leader, and tour the observatory facilities accompanied by scientists and engineers. The day will close with an immersive artistic performance of light and sound. The ceremony and the art performance will be live streamed through ALMA Social Networks and website. A complete list of activities celebrating the first decade can be found on the ALMA website.



Juan Carlos Muñoz Mateos
ESO Media Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6176
Email: press@eso.org

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ALMA antennas
ALMA antennas