News / Science & Technology

Scientists Looking at Coldest Objects in Universe

Scientists Looking at Coldest Objects in Universei
X
June 23, 2014 10:52 PM
Astronomers have a new powerful tool for looking deep into space while trying to better understand the origins of the universe. It is a new telescope that will look for signals coming from the coldest objects in deep space. The telescope is called Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array or "ALMA. As VOA's George Putic reports, the last of its 66 dish antennas has been moved to its site in Chile's high desert
George Putic
Astronomers have a new powerful tool for looking deep into space while trying to better understand the origins of the universe.  It is a new telescope that will look for signals coming from the coldest objects in deep space. The telescope is called Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array or "ALMA.  The last of its 66 dish antennas has been moved to its site in Chile's high desert

Under an almost always cloudless sky, in Chile's cold and barren Atacama desert, 5,000 meters above sea level and away from any electromagnetic interference, ALMA’s dish antennas listen to signals coming from distant cold objects.

Even the coldest matter in space, such as dust and gas, emit signals between infrared light and radio waves, with wavelengths smaller than a millimeter.  Catching them requires either a dish antenna of enormous proportions, or an array of smaller ones, with a supercomputer to consolidate the data.

The equipment that receives those signals must be kept at even colder temperatures, says astronomer Gianni Marconi.

“You have to amplify the signal that is really really low in conditions that are really really extreme, so this is the reason because of our detectors are kept at the minimum temperature possible," he said. "We are few degree above the zero absolute.”

Signals from ALMA’s 66 antennas are processed in a supercomputer called Correlator. Electronic engineer Lorenzo Martinez says each of its four parts can process a lot of data.

“We have 120 gigabytes per second that is produced in each antenna," he said. "Well, if you do the math, these are astronomical numbers.”

It is tricky to combine the signals from several dish antennas.  Scientists have to periodically rearrange them in order to find the best configuration with the least amount of radio interference.

Juan Carlos Salamanca operates a special multi-wheeled transporter called ‘Lore’ to move the antennas across the flat desert floor.

“One antenna weighs almost 100 tons and you need to transport it to 5,000 meters and the truck needs to have the capability to work without a problem at 5,000 meters,” he said.

Marconi says the ALMA telescope will open a new window on the most distant early formed galaxies.

“This is what ALMA is doing, [giving us a new] Horizon looking at the beginning of the universe, at the beginning of the star formation, at the beginning of the formation of our cosmic structure,” he said.

ALMA is a joint project funded by Europe, United States, Canada, East Asia and Chile.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs