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Antennas reveal Antennae

ALMA radio telescope produces first images

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5:08pm, October 3, 2011

The ALMA radio telescope array has released its first test images, spectacular views of star formation in the colliding Antennae Galaxies. Orange and yellow patches highlight stellar nurseries that are normally hidden from observing eyes. Views from other instruments — including the Hubble Space Telescope — fill out the blue, white and pink patches of the galaxies, which lie about 80 million light-years away. ALMA is a set of radio dishes in Chile’s Atacama Desert that is still under construction, but even with just a fraction of the 66 antennas planned for 2013 taking data, the images already surpass any other telescope’s detail. In the coming months the array will peer at nascent exoplanet systems and the gargantuan black hole lurking in the Milky Way’s core. It will also go hunting for some of the universe’s first galaxies. When completed, ALMA’s movable antennas will span up to 18 kilometers. —Camille M. Carlisle

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