The Antennae Galaxies are a pair of distorted colliding spiral galaxies about 70 million light-years away, in the constellation of Corvus (The Crow). This view combines ALMA observations, made in two different wavelength ranges during the observatory’s early testing phase, with visible-light observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
The Hubble image is the sharpest view of this object ever taken and serves as the ultimate benchmark in terms of resolution. ALMA observes at much longer wavelengths which makes it much harder to obtain comparably sharp images. However, when the full ALMA array is completed its vision will be up to ten times sharper than Hubble.
While visible light shown here mainly in blue reveals the newborn stars in the galaxies, ALMA’s view shows us something that cannot be seen at those wavelengths: the clouds of dense cold gas from which new stars form. The ALMA observations shown here in red, pink and yellow were made at specific wavelengths of millimeter and sub-millimeter light (ALMA bands 3 and 7), tuned to detect carbon monoxide molecules in the otherwise invisible hydrogen clouds, where new stars are forming.
Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array, the ALMA (meaning soul in Spanish) is located at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. ALMA is an international partnership between Europe, the United States, Canada, East Asia and the Republic of Chile. Costing more than a billion US dollars, it is the most expensive ground-based telescope in operation. From the array of dishes at the site 66 in all will be online at the end of 2013, already from the first survey of a starburst galaxy shows that these galaxies are much further away than previously assumed, about 12 billion light years away to be exact. This means that rapid star formation began a mere two billion years after the Big Bang. That’s a full one billion years earlier than the previous estimate.
International mega-projects are becoming increasingly common in astronomy. Witness the Square Kilometre Array, a proposal to build 3,000 radio dishes with a total collecting area approaching 1 square kilometre in Australia and South Africa.
Video uploaded by U Tube user The NRAO (this was posted Oct 2011 and describes ALMA best)
Next Generation Telescopes
European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) this revolutionary new ground-based telescope concept will have a 39-meter main mirror and will be the largest optical/near-infrared telescope in the world: “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”. Since the end of 2005 ESO has been working together with its user community of European astronomers and astrophysicists to define the new giant telescope needed by the middle of the next decade. More than 100 astronomers from all European countries have been involved throughout 2006.
The operations planned for early in the next decade, the E-ELT will tackle the biggest scientific challenges of our time, and aim for a number of notable firsts, including tracking down Earth-like planets around other stars in the “habitable zones” where life could exist — one of the Holy Grails of modern observational astronomy. It will also perform “stellar archaeology” in nearby galaxies, as well as make fundamental contributions to cosmology by measuring the properties of the first stars and galaxies and probing the nature of dark matter and dark energy.
Video uploaded by U Tube user Best0fScience