Oct 12, 2005 - Imaging Cosmic Origins: The Atacama Large Millimetre
- Dr. James Di Francesco, NRC-HIA
the universe is filled with stars and galaxies, these objects sit within
cold, dark, seemingly empty spaces that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
The cold interstellar dust and gas within these spaces, however, can emit
faintly at high-frequency radio wavelengths; observing this form of light
gives us direct probes into the mechanics of star and galaxy origins. Though
tremendous progress has been made in recent years toward detecting these
faint, interstellar glows, telescope sensitivity and detail resolution have
always been fundamental limitations.
The Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), a powerful, new, multinational
observatory under construction on the high plateaux of northern Chile, will
make a significant impact on modern astrophysics by allowing extremely
sensitive observations of exquisite detail. Conceived as an array of up to
64 high frequency radio antennas, each 12 m in diameter and combined
electronically to form a single super-telescope, ALMA will have up to 100x
the sensitivity of current telescopes and will be able to discern details at
levels exceeding the capability of the Hubble Space Telescope. Indeed, ALMA
has been considered the highest priority for a new ground-based observatory
in recent Canadian and American studies of future astronomical research.
Canada has partnered with the U.S., along with Europe, Japan and Chile,
to begin building ALMA. For example, major hardware contributions have been
or are being developed at the National Research Council's Herzberg Institute
of Astrophysics, and important software development has occurred at the
University of Calgary through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. This
public presentation will expand on the search for cosmic origins, the
scientific basis for building this incredible instrument, and highlight its
current status and future.
Imaging Cosmic Origins: ALMA