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World's largest ground-based space array to open in Chile today

Published on Mar 13, 2013 1:01 PM
 
Radio telescope antennas of the ALMA ( Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) project are seen in the Chajnantor plateau, Atacama desert, some 1500 km north of Santiago, on March 12,2013. The ALMA, an international partnership project between Europe, North America and East Asia, with the cooperation of Chile, is presently the largest astronomical project in the world. On March 13, 66 high precision antennas will be opened, located at an altitude of 5000 meters above sea level in the extremely arid Atacama desert. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

LLANO CHAJNANTOR, Chile (AFP) - In a super-arid desert at an altitude of 5,000 meters, with almost no humidity or vegetation, the world's largest ground-based astronomy project opens for business on Wednesday ready to probe the universe with unprecedented might.

"What is so very special about this place is that, right here above our heads, there is virtually no water vapor. There is just so little that whatever light is emitted from a heavenly body, galaxy or star, it gets here with no interference" explained Mr Gianni Marconi, an astronomer with the Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array, better known as ALMA (Spanish for "soul").

"And this is the largest observatory that has ever been built," he underscored proudly.

ALMA is a joint effort among North American, European and Asian agencies.

 
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