Japanese astronomers describe building ALMA, world’s largest telescope

7 years ago by in Technology

The ALMA radio telescope, built by Japanese astronomers together with international scientists in the Andean mountains, is now fully working to explore the origins of cosmos.

“ALMA has realized my dream of three decades,” said Masahiko Hayashi, director general of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

Working together with multinational scientists created a better telescope than Japan could have built all by itself, Hayashi said.

One of the project’s challenges was communicating with colleagues who come from around the world, according to Shinya Komugi, a researcher at the Japanese observatory who has been working in Chile since 2010. But that led to a great variety of views, he said.

The researchers used mainly English to speak to each other. Shinichiro Asayama, another researcher from Japan, said it is important to express his ideas, even if his English is a bit limited.

“If I remain silent, nobody would know I am there,” he said. “It is very exciting that I can expand my knowledge by learning from the best and brightest astronomers brought together under the project.”

Scientists from Japan, Europe and the United States have built ALMA radio telescope in Chile, on the Atacama Plateau, at an altitude of around 5,000 meters, Kyodo news agency reports. The construction of the telescope started in 2003 and the total cost was around Y142 billion ($1.4 billion).

The telescope, the largest and most advanced of its kind in the world, started full-fledged operation in March. Japan has played a major role in building the telescope, manufacturing around a quarter of its 66 antennas.

“Astronomers and engineers worldwide have come together to build ALMA, an observatory that harnesses the efforts of many nations in order to produce transformational science,” said Al Wootten, a researcher at the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

The telescope enables researchers to explore such mysteries as the origin of life and the formation of planets by providing a glimpse of how the universe looked billions of years ago, through radio waves from the far corners of outer space.