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News: The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) is a radio telescope comprising 66 antennas located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile is set to get software and hardware upgrades that will help it collect much more data and produce sharper images than ever before.
What is ALMA?
It is a state-of-the-art telescope that studies celestial objects at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths — they can penetrate through dust clouds and help astronomers examine dim and distant galaxies and stars out there. It also has extraordinary sensitivity, which allows it to detect even extremely faint radio signals.
Why is it located in Chile?
It is situated at an altitude of 5,050 metres above sea level on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama Desert as the millimetre and submillimetre waves observed by it are very susceptible to atmospheric water vapour absorption on Earth.
Moreover, the desert is the driest place in the world, meaning most of the nights here are clear of clouds and free of light-distorting moisture — making it a perfect location for examining the universe.
What discoveries has it made?
It provided detailed images of the protoplanetary disc surrounding HL Tauri — a very young T Tauri star in the constellation Taurus.
In 2015, the telescope helped scientists observe a phenomenon known as the Einstein ring, which occurs when light from a galaxy or star passes by a massive object en route to the Earth.
It provided the first image of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy.