Flying above the ALMA site: the Operations Support Facility

This spectacular aerial view shows the ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF), located 2900 metres above sea level in the foothills of the Chilean Andes, near San Pedro de Atacama.

ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, is currently under construction on the 5000-metre-high Chajnantor plateau. Such a high altitude site is necessary for ALMA’s array of antennas to observe the Universe in millimetre and submillimetre radiation, but the lack of oxygen makes the Array Operations Site (AOS) a very uncomfortable place for people to work. For this reason, as much of the scientific and technical work as possible takes place at the OSF, which is 2100 metres lower in altitude. The antennas are even controlled remotely from the OSF.

In this picture, from the bottom left to the centre right, the North American, the Japanese and the European antenna assembly facilities are clearly distinguishable. In these areas, the antennas are assembled and tested by the partners and their contractors, before being handed over to the Joint ALMA Observatory. At this point, the antennas are moved to the area next to the main OSF building, which is visible in the centre of the picture. Here, they undergo further testing before being transported to the AOS along the 28-kilometre road, which leads off to the right of this image. The camp, which offers accommodation for the personnel working at the site, is seen on the left. In the background, the snow-capped high volcanoes of the Andes are silhouetted against the vivid blue sky. The distinctive conical shape of the volcano Licancabur is clearly recognisable.

The ALMA project is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ESO is the European partner in ALMA.



ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), W. Garnier (ALMA). Acknowledgement: General Dynamics C4 Systems

About the Image

Release date:10 October 2011, 10:00
Size:4152 x 2672 px

About the Object

Type:Unspecified : Technology : Observatory

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