The world’s largest astronomical facility has opened its eyes, turning nearly two dozen antennae toward the heavens to study the building blocks of the cosmos. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array consists of 20 radio antennae for now, but will contain 66 by 2013, giving it a higher resolution than the Hubble Space Telescope.
Like nations pitching the International Olympic Committee for a chance to host the games, South Africa and Australia are in a heated contest to lure the internationally funded Square Kilometer Array (SKA) to their own respective stomping grounds. And while Australia already has its first precursor antenna up and running, South Africa responded in kind today, unveiling the MeerKAT Precursor Array (MPA) radio telescope today.
A 100-ton antenna has arrived at a plateau in the Chilean Andes as the first piece of the world's largest astronomical observatory. The ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) is designed to observe light with millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths -- between infrared light and radio waves – and help astronomers see light from some of the coldest and most distant objects at the edge of the observable universe.