Disturbing the Universe

David L Clements, science and science fiction

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Submillimetre Astronomy: Fun Times!

While we all wait for the Planck results to be announced on 21st March (just one week to go until you all learn The Answer!), other branches of astronomy have been making some progress  as well.

My own particular brand, far-IR and submm extragalactic astronomy, has had a few good days. Yesterday the ALMA telescope (Atacama Large Millimetre Array) was inaugurated. This is a stupendously powerful new instrument that can do in minutes observations that were not even possible before from the ground. It is, arguably, more powerful in many ways than the Hubble Space Telescope, especially when you consider that most of the things it observers are not bright in the optical and near-IR and thus can’t be observed properly by Hubble in the first place.

A good example of this is the second bit of good news in my department. Colleague Joaquin Vieira has made observations of a whole bunch of candidate high redshift, gravitationally lensed submm galaxies with ALMA and found lots of interesting sources, confirming that they are indeed at high redshift. To some extent we already knew this thanks to observations with the Herschel Space Observatory, but Joaquin’s ALMA images are truly stunning in their quality, especially since they were observed in only a few minutes and with the array only 1/4 finished.

You can read the paper itself, soon to be out in Nature, here, but watch this space, since we will have our own news in this same department very soon!

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I wrote a fairly long post about the ALMA proposal results coming out, but then WordPress somehow ate the entire text as I was trying to insert an impressive picture of some ALMA antennae.

Quick summary: massive oversubscription. I wrote two proposals that didn’t get time, but I am at least involved with others that did.

You still get to see the cool ALMA photo though. 19 dishes are shown here. The completed array will have 64!