SETI High Goals for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA)

Larry Klaes (
Fri, 11 Jun 1999 13:28:20 -0400

>From: >Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 22:04:16 +0200 (MET DST) >To:,, > >Sender: >Reply-To: > >From: ESO Education and Public Relations Dept. > >Date: Thursday, June 10, 1999 > >Subject: Joint NSF-ESO Press Release on the ALMA project > >---------------------------------------------------------------------------- > >Text with all links is available on the ESO Website at URL: > > > >---------------------------------------------------------------------------- > >Dear subscribers, > >please find attached a joint NSF-ESO Press Release about the ALMA >project. The original URL is at: > > > > >ESO has also released a series of photos and a video clip, together >with some more details about this important project - the >corresponding text will be sent to you in a separate email. > >Kind regards, > >ESO EPR Dept. > >---------------------------------------------------------------------------- > A Joint Press Release by > the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and > the European Southern Observatory (ESO) > > Arlington, Virginia, USA - 10 June 1999 > > ------------------------------------------------------------------------ > > Europe and US to Collaborate on the > Design and Development of a > Giant Radio Telescope Project in Chile > > High Goals for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) > >Representatives from the U.S. and Europe signed an agreement today in >Washington to continue collaboration on the first phase of a giant new >telescope project. The telescope will image the Universe with unprecedented >sensitivity and sharpness at millimeter wavelengths (between the radio and >infrared spectral regions). It will be a major step for astronomy, making it >possible to study the origins of galaxies, stars and planets. > >This project is a prime example of a truly global project, an essential >development in view of the ever-increasing complexity and cost of front-line >astronomical facilities. The U.S. side of the project is run by the National >Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), operated by Associated Universities, >Inc. (AUI) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science >Foundation (NSF). The European side of the project is a collaboration >between the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the Centre National de la >Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (MPG), the >Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy (NFRA) and Nederlandse >Onderzoekschool Voor Astronomie (NOVA), and the United Kingdom Particle >Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC). > >The Europe-U.S. agreement signed today may be formally extended in the very >near future to include Japan, following an already existing tripartite >declaration of intent. > >Dr. Robert Eisenstein, NSF's Assistant Director Mathematical and Physical >Sciences, called the project "a path-breaking international partnership that >will open far-reaching opportunities for astronomical observations. This >array would enable astronomers to explore the detailed processes through >which the stars and planets form and give us a vastly improved understanding >of the formation of the first galaxies in the very early universe." >Eisenstein welcomed the collaboration with Europe and Japan's interest in >becoming a major partner. > >Speaking on behalf of the European Signatories, Prof. Riccardo Giacconi, >Director General of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), one of the >signatories to the new astronomy project, described the new project as >"absolutely fantastic and farsighted - a major ground-based astronomical >observatory for the 21st century. It will open up a key region of the >electromagnetic spectrum to study the very early universe and the >interstellar clouds where the stars and planets are born". > >The new telescope will be located in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, >and has been given the name ALMA, for "Atacama Large Millimeter Array". This >land has been given in concession to CONICYT (The Chilean National >Commission for Science and Technology) last year by the "Ministerio de >Bienes Nacionales" (Ministry of National Assets). It has also been declared >a national reserve for science by President Frei because of its unique >capabilities for astronomical research. > >ALMA will be a revolutionary telescope, operating at millimeter and >submillimeter wavelengths and comprised of an array of individual antennas >each 12 meters in diameter that work together to make precision images of >astronomical objects. The goal of the ALMA Project is an array of 64 >antennas that can be positioned as needed over an area 10 km in diameter so >as to give the array a zoom-lens capability. > >Dr. Paul Vanden Bout, Director of the U.S. National Radio Astronomy >Observatory, emphasized the technical capabilities needed for the array: >"The ALMA Project involves development of a variety of fundamental >technologies including amplification of faint cosmic signals using >superconducting receivers and ultrafast digital data processing, >technologies that will enhance many related areas of scientific research". > >This MOU commits the Signatories to collaborate in a three-year Design and >Development Phase 1 for a joint project. In the U.S., an amount of US $26 >million has been approved for this phase, and in Europe, DM 28 million (15 >million EURO). Two prototype 12-meter antennas will be constructed as part >of Phase 1. > >The MOU also commits the signatories to work towards obtaining approval and >all necessary funding for collaborative participation in a 50-50 >U.S.-European partnership for the ALMA construction and operation phase >(Phase 2). > >It is hoped that full approval of the project can be obtained by early 2001. >Construction will then take much of the decade, with limited operations to >begin in 2005 and the full array becoming operational by 2009. The telescope >will be jointly operated by the U.S. and Europe for the benefit of their >respective scientific communities. > >Japanese astronomers have also been working towards a project of this kind, >the Large Millimeter and Submillimeter Array (LMSA), and have recently >decided to merge the LMSA in a collaboration with Europe and the U.S. >Three-way meetings have already taken place, and the Europe-U.S. MOU signed >today may be formally expanded to include Japan, offering the prospect of an >even more capable array. > >The host state, Chile, has expressed the interest of its scientific >community to be substantially involved in this project, and still other >countries have indicated a desire to join. ALMA may ultimately turn out to >become the first truly global astronomical project. > > ------------------------------------------------------------------------ > >Contacts for the Media > > * Ms. Amber Jones, Office of Legislative and Public Affairs National > Science Foundation, Arlington, Virginia (U.S.A.). Tel.: +1 (703) > 306-1070; Fax: +1 (703) 306-0157; email: > * Dr. Richard M. West, Education and Public Relations Dept., European > Southern Observatory, D-85748 Garching (Germany). Tel.: +4989-32006276; > Fax: +4989-3202362; email: > > ------------------------------------------------------------------------ > >

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