Space Hotel Aims to Open in 2027

A proverbial interstellar construction company has announced plans to build a lavish space hotel and they hope to welcome their first guests to the fantastic facility in just six years. During a recent online event, the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC) reportedly provided a glimpse of what their ‘Voyager Station’ will look like once it has been completed and shared details as to how they intend to pull off such an audacious project. Designed to accommodate approximately 400 people spread out throughout 24 “habitation modules,” the ring-shaped space station will measure around 650 feet in diameter and reside in low Earth orbit, where it will rotate in a manner that will generate gravity similar to that found on the moon.

Much like luxurious cruise ships here on Earth, the hotel will be equipped with a vast array of amenities including all manner of restaurants and recreational activities, specifically a bevy of attractions designed to take advantage of the facility’s out-of-this-world setting. In addition to space tourists, the company hopes to sell spots on the station to various governments and any other large organizations that may wish to study or make use of its unique artificial gravity. OAC says that they hope to begin construction on the space hotel sometime around 2025, when a specially designed craft known as the Structure Truss Assembly Robot will be dispatched into space and begin building the framework of the facility.

Assuming that there are no complications in the complex construction process, which may border on wishful thinking at this stage of the station’s development, they anticipate spending two years completing the project and ultimately opening for business in 2027. With that in mind, those hoping to visit the space hotel sometime in the future will likely want to start saving now as the estimated cost for just a three-and-a-half-day visit is a whopping $5 million. Alas, with that kind of price tag, most of us will likely be stuck in the unenviable position of looking at someone’s else vacation pictures from the historic station rather than experience it for ourselves.

SpaceX: Starship lands safely… then explodes

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has successfully landed one of its Starship prototypes at the end of a high-altitude test flight.

It is the first time the space exploration company has pulled this off, after the ship’s predecessors crashed into the ground.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. A fire then developed around SN10’s base and eight minutes later it exploded on the landing pad in Boca Chica, Texas.

First ‘space helicopter’ set to take to Martian skies

NBC News

When NASA’s Perseverance rover touches down next week, it will carry one of the strangest devices ever seen on Mars — a drone destined to make the first controlled flights on an extraterrestrial planet.

Dubbed “Ingenuity,” the drone weighs just 4 pounds, and it will stay stored beneath the rover’s belly while Perseverance runs through its initial surface checks and experiments.

But about the middle of April, the rover will scout out a flat area without large rocks to deploy the drone, and soon after that Perseverance will release Ingenuity to make the first flights on Mars.

“It’s pretty unique in that it’s a helicopter that can fly around,” said Tim Canham, the operations lead for the Ingenuity project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

“There was a balloon mission on Venus years ago, so we can’t claim to be the first aircraft,” he said, referring to the two Soviet Vega space probes that deployed balloons attached to scientific instruments in the clouds on Venus in 1985. “But we can claim we’re the first powered aircraft outside Earth.”

Canham will coordinate the five test flights scheduled for the Ingenuity drone over 30 days, with each at least three days apart.

“The first flight will be very basic – it will just go straight up, hover and go straight down,” he said. “After that, we’ll do a couple of flights where we go horizontally, to test how it works.”

The car-size Perseverance rover has seven complex scientific instruments, so it can take panoramic video, monitor the weather, perform ultraviolet and X-ray spectroscopy on anything it finds, and look for signs of ancient microbial life.

But, Ingenuity will carry out no science on its test flights. It will only take photographs of the Martian terrain with its two cameras, one facing forward and one down.

Instead, the Ingenuity project is designed to show drones can be an important addition to the ongoing explorations of distant planets, Canham said.

“Our job is really to prove that the aerodynamics, as we’ve tested them here, work also on Mars,” he said.

Mars is a hard place to fly, which is why Ingenuity weighs so little and needs two counter-rotating 4-foot-long helicopter rotors to stay aloft.

Perseverance, nicknamed Percy, is a car-sized Mars rover designed to explore the Jezero crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. It was manufactured by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was launched on 30 July 2020, at 7:50 a.m. EDT (11:50 UTC), and is scheduled to land on Mars on 18 February 2021, 3 p.m EST/8 p.m UTC.

Perseverance carries seven scientific instruments to study the Martian surface at Jezero crater. It carries several cameras and two microphones.

Technical details
Length 2 m (6 ft 7 in)
Diameter 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in)
Height 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in)
Launch mass 1,025 kg (2,260 lb)
Power 110 W (0.15 hp)

Photos of Earth from the ISS

The Cupola is an ESA-built observatory module of the International Space Station (ISS). Its seven windows are used to conduct experiments, dockings and observations of Earth. It was launched aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-130 on 8 February 2010 and attached to the Tranquility (Node 3) module. With the Cupola attached, ISS assembly reached 85 percent completion. The Cupola’s 80 cm (31 in) window is the largest ever used in space.

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Stunning views from the Cupola

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South Florida

space ghana

Storms over Ghana, Africa

space great lakes

Great Lakes

space horn of africa

Horn of Africa

space ne coast brazil

Northeast coast of Brazil

space new york and south

New York City looking south

space southwest libya

Southwest Libya

space tibet

Tibet

space tokyo

Tokyo

spave mt vesuvius

Mt. Vesuvius, Italy

Historical space photos

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Earth from the Moon during an Apollo mission

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Space Shuttle blasting off into the clouds

Breaking through the clouds

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World’s Largest Telescopes

Wiki

This list of the largest optical reflecting telescopes with objective diameters of 3.0 metres (120 in) or greater is sorted by aperture, which is one limit on the light-gathering power and resolution of a reflecting telescope’s optical assembly.

1. 

The Gran Telescopio Canarias (GranTeCan or GTC), also known as the Great Canary Telescope is a 10.4 m (410 in) reflecting telescope located at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, Spain.

Construction of the telescope, sited on a volcanic peak 2,267 metres (7,438 ft) above sea level, took seven years and cost €130 million (£112 million). Its installation had been hampered by weather conditions and the logistical difficulties of transporting equipment to such a remote location. First light was achieved in 2007 and scientific observations began in 2009.

The GTC Project is a partnership formed by several institutions from Spain and Mexico, the University of Florida, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). Planning for the construction of the telescope, which started in 1987, involved more than 1,000 people from 100 companies.

As of 2015, it is the world’s largest single-aperture optical telescope. The distribution of the availability of time to use the telescope meets its financial structure: 90% Spain, 5% Mexico and 5% the University of Florida.

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2. 

The W. M. Keck Observatory is a two-telescope astronomical observatory at an elevation of 4,145 meters (13,600 ft) near the summit of Mauna Kea in the U.S. state of Hawaii. Both telescopes feature 10 m (33 ft) primary mirrors, currently among the largest astronomical telescopes in use. The combination of an excellent site, large optics and innovative instruments has created the two most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth.

 

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3.

The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is a 10-metre class optical telescope designed mainly for spectroscopy. It consists of 91 hexagonal mirror segments each with a 1 metre inscribed diameter, resulting in a total hexagonal mirror of 11.1 m by 9.8 m. It is located close to the town of Sutherland in the semi-desert region of the Karoo, South Africa. It is a facility of the South African Astronomical Observatory, the national optical observatory of South Africa.

 

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4.

The Hobby–Eberly Telescope (HET) is a 9.2-meter (30-foot) aperture telescope located at the McDonald Observatory in Texas. It is one of the largest optical telescopes in the world and combines a number of features that differentiate it from most telescope designs, resulting in greatly lowered construction costs. For instance, the primary mirror is constructed from 91 hexagonal segments, which is less expensive than manufacturing a single large primary. Furthermore, the telescope’s main mirror is fixed at a 55° angle and can rotate around its base. A target is tracked by moving the instruments at the focus of the telescope; this provides access to about 70–81% of the sky at its location and allows a single target to be tracked for up to two hours.

The Hobby–Eberly Telescope is operated by The University of Texas McDonald Observatory for a consortium of institutions which includes The University of Texas at Austin, Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, and Georg August University of Gottingen.

 

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5.

The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) is an optical telescope for astronomy located on Mount Graham (10,700-foot (3,300 m) in the Pinaleno Mountains of southeastern Arizona, and is a part of the Mount Graham International Observatory. The LBT is currently one of the world’s most advanced optical telescopes; using two 8.4 m (27 ft) wide mirrors, with a 14.4 m center-center separation, it has the same light gathering ability as an 11.8 m (39 ft) wide single circular telescope and detail of a 22.8 m (75 ft) wide one. Either of its mirrors would be the second-largest optical telescope in continental North America, behind the Hobby–Eberly Telescope in West Texas; as of summer 2014, it would still be the largest monolithic, or non-segmented mirror, in an optical telescope. Optical performance of the telescope is excellent, and Strehl ratios of 60–90% in the infrared H band and 95% in the infrared M band have been achieved by the LBT.

The LBT was originally named the “Columbus Project”. It is a joint project of these members: the Italian astronomical community represented by the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, the University of Arizona; University of Minnesota, University of Notre Dame, University of Virginia, the LBT Beteiligungsgesellschaft in Germany (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Landessternwarte in Heidelberg, Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Munich and Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn); The Ohio State University; Research Corporation in Tucson.

 

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6.

Subaru Telescope is the 8.2 metre flagship telescope of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, located at the Mauna Kea Observatory on Hawaii. It is named after the open star cluster known in English as the Pleiades. It had the largest monolithic primary mirror in the world from its commission until 2005.

In 1984, the University of Tokyo formed an engineering working group to study the concept of a 7.5-metre telescope. In 1985, the astronomy committee of Japan’s science council gave top priority to the development of a “Japan National Large Telescope” (JNLT), and in 1986, the University of Tokyo signed an agreement with the University of Hawaii to build the telescope in Hawaii. In 1988, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan was formed through a reorganization of the University’s Tokyo Astronomical Observatory, to oversee the JNLT and other large national astronomy projects.

 

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7.

The Very Large Telescope (VLT) is a telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The VLT consists of four individual telescopes, each with a primary mirror 8.2 m across, which are generally used separately but can be used together to achieve very high angular resolution. The four separate optical telescopes are known as AntuKueyenMelipal and Yepun, which are all words for astronomical objects in the Mapuche language. The telescopes form an array which is complemented by four movable Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) of 1.8 m aperture.

The VLT operates at visible and infrared wavelengths. Each individual telescope can detect objects roughly four billion times fainter than can be detected with the naked eye, and when all the telescopes are combined, the facility can achieve an angular resolution of about 0.001 arc-second (This is equivalent to roughly 2 meters resolution at the distance of the Moon). In single telescope mode of operation angular resolution is about 0.05 arc-second.

The VLT is the most productive ground-based facility for astronomy, with only the Hubble Space Telescope generating more scientific papers among facilities operating at visible wavelengths. Among the pioneering observations carried out using the VLT are the first direct image of an exoplanet, the tracking of individual stars moving around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, and observations of the afterglow of the furthest known gamma-ray burst.

 

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8.

The Gemini Observatory is an astronomical observatory consisting of two 8.19-metre (26.9 ft) telescopes, the Gemini North and Gemini South at different sites in Hawaii and Chile, respectively. Together, the twin Gemini telescopes provide almost complete coverage of both the northern and southern skies. They are currently among the largest and most advanced optical/infrared telescopes available to astronomers.

The Gemini telescopes were built and are operated by a consortium consisting of the United States, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Australia. This partnership is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). The United Kingdom dropped out of the partnership at the end of 2012 and the Gemini Observatory has responded to this by significantly reducing its operating costs, so that no new partners are required beginning in 2013.

 

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9.

The Magellan Telescopes are a pair of 6.5 m (21.3 ft) diameter optical telescopes located at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. The two telescopes are named after the astronomer Walter Baade and the philanthropist Landon T. Clay.

First light for the telescopes was on September 15, 2000 for the Baade, and September 7, 2002 for the Clay.

A collaboration between Carnegie Institution for Science, University of Arizona, Harvard University, The University of Michigan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology built and operate the twin telescopes.

It was named after the sixteenth-century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

 

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10.

The BTA-6 is a 6-metre (20 ft) aperture optical telescope at the Special Astrophysical Observatory located in the Zelenchuksky District on the north side of the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia.

The BTA-6 achieved first light in late 1975, making it the largest telescope in the world until 1990, when it was surpassed by the partially constructed Keck 1. It pioneered the technique, now standard in large astronomical telescopes, of using an altazimuth mount with a computer-controlled derotator.

For a variety of reasons, BTA-6 was never able to operate near its theoretical limits. Early problems with poorly fabricated mirror glass were addressed in 1978, fixing the most serious issue. But due to its location down-wind of numerous large mountain peaks, astronomical seeing is rarely good. The telescope also suffers from serious thermal expansion problems due to the large thermal mass of the mirror, and the dome as a whole which is much larger than necessary. Upgrades have taken place throughout the system’s history and are ongoing to this day.

 

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SpaceX Dragon at ISS for Six Months

SpaceX Crew-1 (also known as USCV-1 or simply Crew-1) is the first operational crewed flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft. It is also the first crewed night launch by the United States since that of STS-130 in February 2010. The Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience launched on 16 November 2020 at 00:27:17 UTC on a Falcon 9 from the Kennedy Space Center, LC-39A, carrying NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker along with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, all members of the Expedition 64 crew. The mission is the second overall crewed orbital flight of the Crew Dragon.

Crew-1 is the first operational mission to the International Space Station in the Commercial Crew Program. Originally designated “USCV-1” by NASA in 2012, the launch date was delayed several times from the original date of November 2016. The mission is expected to last 180 days, meaning the flight will return to Earth sometime around May 2021. Resilience is expected to return to Earth via splashdown for reuse for another future mission.

Nasa SpaceX launch: Astronaut crew heads to orbit

Timelapse of rocket launchIMAGE
The rocket left the Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Four astronauts – three from the US and one from Japan – have launched from Florida on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The crew rode to orbit in a rocket and capsule provided by the SpaceX company.

It’s only the second time the firm has supplied the service.

The US space agency Nasa has said it is now entering a new era in which routine astronaut journeys to low-Earth orbit are being conducted by commercial providers.

The four individuals making their way up to the ISS are the Americans Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and the highly experienced Japanese space agency (Jaxa) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

By participating in this mission, Noguchi becomes only the third person in history to leave Earth in three different types of space vehicle, having previously flown on Soyuz and shuttle hardware.

Crew 1IMAGE
The traditional “walk-out”: The suited crew waved to family and friends
The capsule
Presentational white space

The crew’s Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule left the pad at the Kennedy Space Center at 19:27 local time (00:27 GMT, Monday).

It will take just over a day to reach the station. A docking with the orbiting platform is set for about 0400 GMT on Tuesday.

SpaceX has signed contracts with Nasa valued in excess of $3bn (£2.3bn) to develop, test and fly an astronaut taxi service.

As part of this relationship, the company ran a demonstration mission in May in which astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were taken to the station and then returned safely to Earth.

The contracted arrangements also call for six “operational”, or routine, missions – this flight being the first.

Nasa has a similar deal with the Boeing aerospace company, although its service is more than a year behind SpaceX.

The ascent
Presentational white space

The agency says its new model of contracting out transportation to low-Earth orbit is saving billions of dollars in procurement costs.

It intends to use these economies to fund its Moon and Mars ambitions. To that end, Nasa is close to testing the giant new rocket it has commissioned to take astronauts back to the lunar surface, a goal it hopes to attain in 2024, or soon after.

Hopkins, Glover, Walker and Noguchi will stay on the ISS for six months.

Just before they return to Earth, they’ll be joined aloft by another SpaceX-launched crew for a brief handover.

Nasa retired its winged space shuttles in 2011. In the intervening years, it’s been buying seats for its astronauts on Russian Soyuz vehicles.

This purchase option will now close in favour of the new American-sourced taxis. But US astronauts will continue to go to the station on Soyuz from time to time – it’s just that no money will change hands.

Instead, Russian cosmonauts will get flights in the American capsules in exchange.

Soichi NoguchiIMAGE
Soichi Noguchi has now flown in a SpaceX Dragon, a Soyuz capsule and a space shuttle

The new crew will have at least four spacewalks to perform in their time at the station.

In one of those walks, they will install the first significant UK industrial contribution to the platform.

This is the Colka communications terminal. Made by MDA UK, the radio equipment will enable astronauts to connect with scientists and family on Earth at home broadband speeds.

ColKa will be fixed to the exterior of Europe’s ISS research module, Columbus.

The antenna terminal
The British antenna terminal will be attached to the station during a spacewalk

The Only Man to Be Buried on the Moon

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Eugene Shoemaker (Source: Atlas Obscura)

Humanity has seen only a handful of people that actually had the honor to step on earth’s natural satellite, but at present, there is only one person who is “buried” on an astronomical body orbiting Earth. The name of the soul that now rests on the Moon is Eugene Shoemaker, an astrogeologist who had worked with NASA since the 1960s and became famous when a comet that crashed on Jupiter in 1994 received his name (Shoemaker-Levy Comet).

The reason this comet became so famous is that this was the first time in human history that we had the chance to witness a planetary collision. This event was mainly reported by Eugene Shoemaker and David Levy, hence the two monikers within the comet’s name.

A long-lived passion

As an astrogeologist, he had always been fascinated by space and the idea of humans colonizing the earth’s natural satellite. Eugene was also schooled in the world of geology and this is where he used both of high interests to research the Moon and prepare astronauts for the type of soil/rock they would land on. As much as he loved the idea of traveling to the Moon he always knew that he may not be able to make it as he was the brain and not the muscle of NASA.

He was also very famous in the United States not only due to his intensive studies of craters around the state but also for founding the Program for archeological studies within the US in the 1960s. All of his knowledge was a very valuable element in the success of the Apollo missions and other NASA projects. In fact, the origins of what’s now known as Meteor Crater in Arizona had been uncertain before his Ph.D. dissertation settled the matter. This was the same crater that most astronauts that took part in the Apollo missions were trained in as it was quite similar to the terrain on the Moon.

The better the astronauts understood the terrain they were about to face the better they could get prepared for what was ahead. Getting to the Moon was only half of the mission. As mentioned before, Eugene’s long dream since he first approached astronomy was to go to the Moon to see our beautiful world from a different perspective. However, his focus was on his own work, he knew he was more valuable as an astronomist and geologist than as an astronaut.

Reaching his final destination

Sadly, his life was cut short due to a car accident that took place on the 18th of July 1997. However, this wasn’t going to be Eugene’s final journey. A close work colleague had the idea to actually send his corpse to the Moon as she knew this was his life-long dream. NASA thought that this was a very good idea to show their appreciation for his work over the years. His body was cremated as transporting his ashes would have been much easier than transporting his corpse.

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Eugene Shoemaker and his team also led geology field trips for astronauts-in-training in 1967. (Source: Science Source)

His ashes were loaded on the Lunar Prospector, a rocket which launched on the 6th of January 1998 with the goal of reaching the South pole of the Moon. Eugene Shoemaker’s ashes were inside a special polycarbonate capsule produced by a company called Celestis that was actually specializing in sending dead people to space but never onto the Moon. The outside of the capsule was marked with his name, his date of birth, and date of death as well as a picture of him training astronauts in a geology field trip (the same picture you can see above).

The Luna prospector reached the moon on the 31st of July 1999. On the same day, they launched the capsule containing Shoemaker’s ashes which crashed onto the moon, thus “burying” Eugene Shoemaker in the place he had always wanted to reach.

From: medium.com

Atacama Large Millimeter Array

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an astronomical interferometer of 66 radio telescopes in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, which observe electromagnetic radiation at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. The array has been constructed on the 5,000 m (16,000 ft) elevation Chajnantor plateau – near the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory and the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment. This location was chosen for its high elevation and low humidity, factors which are crucial to reduce noise and decrease signal attenuation due to Earth’s atmosphere. ALMA is expected to provide insight on star birth during the early Stelliferous era and detailed imaging of local star and planet formation.

ALMA is an international partnership among Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Chile. Costing about US$1.4 billion, it is the most expensive ground-based telescope in operation. ALMA began scientific observations in the second half of 2011 and the first images were released to the press on 3 October 2011. The array has been fully operational since March 2013.

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The initial ALMA array is composed of 66 high-precision antennas, and operates at wavelengths of 3.6 to 0.32 millimeters (31 to 1000 GHz). The array has much higher sensitivity and higher resolution than earlier submillimeter telescopes such as the single-dish James Clerk Maxwell Telescope or existing interferometer networks such as the Submillimeter Array or the Institut de Radio Astronomie Millimétrique (IRAM) Plateau de Bure facility.

The antennas can be moved across the desert plateau over distances from 150 m to 16 km, which will give ALMA a powerful variable “zoom”, similar in its concept to that employed at the centimetre-wavelength Very Large Array (VLA) site in New Mexico, United States.

The high sensitivity is mainly achieved through the large numbers of antenna dishes that will make up the array.

The telescopes were provided by the European, North American and East Asian partners of ALMA. The American and European partners each provided twenty-five 12-meter diameter antennas, that compose the main array. The participating East Asian countries are contributing 16 antennas (four 12-meter diameter and twelve 7-meter diameter antennas) in the form of the Atacama Compact Array (ACA), which is part of the enhanced ALMA.

 

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The complex was built primarily by European, U.S., Japanese, and Canadian companies and universities. Three prototype antennas have undergone evaluation at the Very Large Array since 2002.

General Dynamics C4 Systems and its SATCOM Technologies division was contracted by Associated Universities, Inc. to provide twenty-five of the 12 m antennas, while European manufacturer Thales Alenia Space provided the other twenty-five principal antennas (in the largest-ever European industrial contract in ground-based astronomy). Japan constructed 16 Antennas. The first antenna was delivered in 2008, the last in 2011.

 

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The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan (NINS) in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA. Its current director since February 2018 is Sean Dougherty.

 

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What is ALMA?

Half of all light in the universe is in millimeter-wavelength light between the far infrared and radio waves. ALMA can detect this light, which is emitted by cool objects and distant objects. It’s possible thanks to the telescope’s location at 16,400 feet in the driest desert on Earth, and because of the incredible precision of its 66 antennas.

All  telescopes are limited in their angular resolution by the ratio of their aperture to the wavelength they observe, explained Michael Thornburn, head of the ALMA department of engineering. ALMA is an aperture synthesis telescope.

“We cannot make a single aperture 15 kilometers across, so we do it in pieces,” he said. “The signals from individual dishes are combined to build up the image from a single large aperture.”

Radio signals from distant cosmic sources arrive at each dish at ever-so-slightly different times, and these are combined with the signals from every other antenna. This technique, interferometry, allows ALMA to operate like a single huge dish with an adaptable radius.

In a carefully choreographed ballet, each dish moves in unison with the others to change the telescope’s observing area. Along with moving in place, giant transporter trucks, specially designed for the dishes, can pick them up and cart them across the Chajnantor Plateau to one of 192 concrete pads. At their greatest distance apart–16 kilometers–ALMA’s angular resolution will be equivalent to the Hubble Space Telescope, Peck said.

ALMA is observing sources that are 10 times weaker than those observed with other arrays, explained Pierre Cox, ALMA’s incoming director. This is key to ALMA’s capability for observing phenomena like star formation, he said.

“Future observations should allow us to detect dark matter substructure and shed light on its nature,” he added.

There’s much more to learn about how ALMA works, and why astronomers are so excited about it–stay tuned for more dispatches from the Atacama.