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ALMA Radio Telescope

The World's Most Advanced Radio Telescope

Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) Observatory's primary goal is to provide a radio telescope array that will allow scientists to observe and image galaxies out to the edge of the universe, and stars and planets in their formative stages with unprecedented clarity. General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies designed and built 25 twelve-meter antennas for the North American portion of the project.

World's Most Advanced Radio Telescope Using GD SATCOM's Antennas

How ALMA Works

The ALMA radio telescope captures faint radio signals emitted from dust and gas that have traveled over hundreds of light years – one light year equals 5.86 trillion miles – to the antenna array. When radio signals reach the ALMA Observatory, the data is processed by an onsite super-computer, enabling scientists to see never-before seen images of the universe in three dimensions.

The antennas work together as one telescope to provide a spatial resolution 10 times higher than the Hubble Space Telescope. The antennas act as one massive radio telescope that bends, swivels and points in unison, toward distant corners of the universe. ALMA is currently studying the structure of the early universe and the evolution of galaxies; gathering crucial data on the formation of stars and planets; and providing new insights on our own solar system.

Building ALMA

General Dynamics delivered the first antenna to the ALMA site in Chile in 2007. The extremely dry conditions, where the air is too thin for humans to work without oxygen, is the ideal location for the array because it limits environmental and other factors that would interfere with the antenna’s operation if it were closer to sea level.

ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), operated by AUI for the National Science Foundation. ALMA is a partnership between North America (the United States and Canada), Europe, and Japan, in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The NRAO received funding for ALMA in North America from the U.S. National Science Foundation in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada.