Friday, April 17, 2015

ALMA Starts Looking

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope on the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile has started its observations, with scientists aiming the sprawling array of antennae at known objects to calibrate it.

And it's already started finding things -- at the young star HL Tau it detected concentric rings inside the disc of gas that's probably condensing into planets. That means it's seeing where the planets will probably be whenever they finish forming, which will likely be several million years from now. It measured some surface features on the asteroid Juno by using its array to detect the light the asteroid itself emits rather than the sunlight it reflects (that light is in a part of the spectrum we can't see, which is why a standard telescope wouldn't spot it).

If this is what ALMA is finding while it's being tuned up, I am going to make sure my subscription to Astronomy magazine doesn't run out any time in the next twenty-five years, because it's going to be awesome.

No comments: