Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), scientists have detected a newborn star and the surrounding cocoon of a complex organic matter, for the first time.


  • The discovery revealed the hidden chemical complexity of Universe. It was published in a paper, in The Astrophysical Journal.
  • The scientists used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile for observing a newborn star (protostar) in WB89-789 region. It is located in extreme outer Galaxy.
  • They also detected a variety of carbon-, oxygen-, sulfur-, nitrogen-, and silicon-bearing molecules, including complex organic molecules comprising up to nine atoms.
  • Observations reveal that, several types of complex organic molecules, like methanol (CH3OH), methyl formate (HCOOCH3), ethanol (C2H5OH), dimethyl ether (CH3OCH3), propanenitrile (C2H5CN), formamide (NH2CHO), etc., are present in primordial environment of the Galaxy.
  • The complex organic molecules act as a feedstock for larger prebiotic molecules.

Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)

ALMA is an astronomical interferometer comprising of 66 radio telescopes in Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The array observes electromagnetic radiation at wavelengths of millimeter and submillimeter. Array has been constructed at the elevation of 5,000 m in Chajnantor plateau. This location was selected for its high elevation and low humidity, which are essential factors for reducing noise and decrease signal attenuation due to atmosphere of Earth.

Which countries are part of ALMA?

ALMA is an international partnership between Europe, the United States, Japan, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea and Chile.

Cost of the ALMA

ALMA array costs around US$1.4 billion. It is the most expensive ground-based telescope in operation.

When it started operating?

ALMA started scientific observations in 2011. The first images were released in October 2011. ALMA has been fully operational since March 2013.




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