ALMA - Atacama Large Millimetre Array
03 Dec 2010



The United Kingdom is participating in the construction of the world's largest astronomical observatory, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), that will be located in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile at an altitude in excess of 5000m.


​​​​An artist's impression of the ALMA array


​The ALMA Observatory will consist of 64 × 12 m diameter telescopes configured as an interferometric imaging array and capable of synthesising a single aperture of some 15 km in diameter.  The array will provided an unprecedented capability in terms of observational sensitivity and spatial resolution within the millimetre and sub-millimetre wavelength (terahertz) spectral range. It will be used to detect and study the earliest and most distant galaxies and will also probe deep into dust-obscured regions of our own galaxy that are the birthplace of stars and planets.

The project is an international collaboration between North America and Europe, with Japan recently joining as a partner nation. The UK technical contribution is managed by the ALMA UK Project Office located within RAL Space at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL).

Additional to this management role, RAL is also contributing key areas of technology during the array construction phase and that include; the detector system cryogenics, photonic phase reference mixers, and calibration load development. Other activities are taking place within the UK at Jodrell Bank, UK ATC, University of Kent at Canterbury and University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory.

ALMA photomixer

ALMA will be one of the most complex ground based astronomical instruments ever built and will bring together the talents and expertise of scientists and engineers from a variety of nations. When completed in 2012, it will provide an observational instrument appropriate for astronomy research in the 21st century. Additional information to be found at ESO (link opens in a new window) and NROA (link opens in a new window).

​For more information, please click he​re.​​

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries