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Huge Telescope Starts Operations in Chile


A view from the center of the ALMA array at an elevation of 5,000 meters on the Chajnantor Plain in northern Chile. Each of these radio telescopes has a dish spanning nearly 40 feet across.

A view from the center of the ALMA array at an elevation of 5,000 meters on the Chajnantor Plain in northern Chile. Each of these radio telescopes has a dish spanning nearly 40 feet across.

A powerful new radio telescope has begun probing the depths of outer space from the Atacama desert in northern Chile.

The telescope, called ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/Sub-Millimeter Array), began operating Monday after years of planning and construction. The telescope is using 16 large antennas to see wavelengths of light that are much longer than what the human eye can see. Eventually it will use 66 antennas.

Scientists like the desert location because the instrument is set up in an area that is extremely dry and is at an altitude of 5,000 meters.

The researchers are hoping the telescope will yield new clues about the coldest and darkest regions of space, and provide information about the formation of stars and planets in galaxies.

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