Antennas by General Dynamics enable 'early science' for ALMA

Oct 03, 2011
This is the growing Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array at 16,500 feet elevation in northern Chile. It is only one-third complete, but is already the most powerful telescope of its kind. Credit: W. Garnier, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

Thirteen 12-meter antennas manufactured by General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies have been successfully installed at the 16,500-foot-high Chajnantor plateau in Chile, home to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) astronomical observatory. Located in the Andes mountains, the 115-ton, highly specialized antennas form part of an 11-mile-wide international astronomy project. When it is completed in 2013, scientists will use the observatory to study portions of the universe at a level of detail that is beyond what current astronomical technologies provide, studying the origins of galaxies, stars, and planets.

Now, in a preliminary step, the General Dynamics-built antennas are being linked together for the first time with others made in Europe and Japan to begin operating as a single radio telescope, enabling initial scientific experiments or 'early science.' One top-rated science experiment will use ALMA to unearth the behavior of about 50 of the most massive black holes in the universe previously hidden in the dusty material of their galaxies.

"The installation of the General Dynamics antennas on the Chajnantor plateau represents a significant achievement for the North American portion of the ALMA project," said Brian Schrader, senior director for General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies. "We've provided the majority of the antennas now allowing scientists to pursue projects that use ALMA's eyes to make large leaps in exploration."

"With ALMA poised to commence historic early using at least 16 of its final 66 antennas, it is already the world's most powerful at millimeter wavelengths. We're grateful to the entire North American ALMA antenna team, of which General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies is an integral part, for working so hard to make this day possible," said Mark McKinnon, North American director at the (NRAO).

In addition to its antennas at the high site, General Dynamics has delivered another four antennas now in various stages of customer acceptance testing at the at the ALMA Operations Support facility, 7,000 feet below the Chajnantor plateau. Once complete and ready for operation, the antennas are carried by a custom-built transporter to the plateau where each is attached to a concrete platform and connected to electrical power, fiber optics and other services.

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2 / 5 (4) Oct 03, 2011
from everythign i've read.

i think astonomy is going in the direction where eventually someone is going to use a set of supercomputers to coordinate the information and control over ALL the worlds antennas willing to participate in integrated search.

this way, the entire planet becomes a giant telescope , evolving with the addition of each new location of telesecopes or telescope arrays (including those in outerspace) .

this would be a truly genius accomplishment.
1 / 5 (2) Oct 03, 2011
Suddenly I see the brand General Dynamics all over PhysOrg news. Even this article was supposed to be Science news (especially when published by NRAO, and not some corporation), but it really reads like a leaflet from a pushy executive.

To me, General Dynamics sounds just as universal, nondescript, and covertly sinister as Cyberdyne Systems. I would like to read about the wonderful advances in Astronomy without the constant company of the Terminator.
not rated yet Oct 04, 2011
"i think astonomy[sic] is going in the direction where eventually someone is going to use a set of supercomputers to coordinate the information and control over ALL the worlds antennas willing to participate in integrated search."

The NVO is a step in that direction:

And this is to be combined with a worldwide Virtual Observatory project: http://en.wikiped...ervatory

This should greatly reduce redundant observations and make more efficient use of precious observing time.