ALMA observatory officially inaugurated

25 high-precision antennas delivered and installed by MT Mechatronics in the Atacama Desert in Chile

Bremen, San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), March 13, 2013 - The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) was officially inaugurated today in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Consequently, the world’s largest and most complex ground-based observatory is now going into operation to explore the universe. The ceremony was attended by the Chilean president Sebastián Piñera as well as the partners of the multinational project and representatives of the industrial contractors including the shareholders of the OHB Group, Christa and Prof. Manfred Fuchs, and the CEO of MT Aerospace AG, Hans J. Steininger.

ALMA is made up of 66 individual high-precision antennas which together form a single revolutionary telescope system capable of observing wave lengths from 0.3 to 9.6 millimeters. At the center of the observatory is an array of 50 antennas, each with a diameter of 12 meters, operating like a single telescope in the form of an interferometer. This is supplemented with a field of four antennas with a diameter of 12 meters and twelve antennas with a diameter of 7 meters. The ALMA antennas are mobile, meaning that they can be arranged on the Chajnantor plateau in such a way that maximum distances of between 150 meters and 16 kilometers are possible, thus creating a gigantic zoom lens.

The ALMA project is being executed jointly by Europe, North America and Eastern Asia in conjunction with the Republic of Chile. It is being financed in Europe by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in North America by the US National Science Foundation in conjunction with the Canadian National Research Council and the National Science Council of Taiwan and in Eastern Asia by the Japanese National Institutes of Natural Sciences in conjunction with Academica Sinica in Taiwan.

25 of the 50 12-meter high-precision antennas have been supplied under a contract for ESO by a European syndicate in which MT Mechatronics GmbH, a subsidiary of MT Aerospace AG, has been playing a decisive role. In addition to delivering the 25 antennas, MT Mechatronics was responsible for complete assembly in the Atacama Desert at an altitude of 5,000 meters above sea level. At times, work on assembling the telescopes required up to 100 specialists who were accommodated in a site camp specially set up for this purpose.
ALMA will be able to explore the universe in the millimeter and submillimeter range of the electromagnetic spectrum with an unprecedented sensitivity and resolution. It has a resolution up to ten times that of the Hubble space telescope.

One of ALMA’s tasks will be to explore the origins of planets and stars in cold interstellar clouds and protoplanetary accretion disks. Millimeter waves are particularly good at penetrating clouds of gas and dust which conceal the origins of stars and planets. Infrared galaxies in the early universe, massive black holes and the origin of galaxies are further areas which ALMA will be exploring. In addition, ALMA will be helping to answer important questions in the exploration of dark matter and dark energy.

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