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Chile unveils world's largest astronomical observatory

Xinhua)  08:22, March 14, 2013  

Chile unveils world's largest astronomical observatory in the remote Atacama Desert of the northern Chilean Andes on March 13, 2013. (Photo/Xinhua)

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SANTIAGO, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Chilean President Sebastian Pinera Wednesday presided over the launching of the world's largest astronomical observatory in the remote Atacama Desert of the northern Chilean Andes.

Home to the world's most powerful telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array(ALMA), the observatory is the result of a collaboration between Europe, the United States, Japan and Chile, according to an ALMA press release.

"One of our many natural resources is Chile's spectacular night sky," Pinera told the more than 500 guests gathered for the event.

"I believe that science has been a vital contributor to the development of Chile in recent years. I am very proud of our international collaborations in astronomy, of which ALMA is the latest and biggest outcome." said Pinera

Located 5,000 meters above sea level, the assembly of ALMA's antennas was recently completed and the telescope has already provided "unprecedented views of the cosmos with only a portion of its full array," the observatory said.

ALMA "is able to observe the universe by detecting light that is invisible to the human eye (and) will show us never-before-seen details about the birth of stars, infant galaxies in the early universe, and planets coalescing around distant suns," the observatory added.

Already "astronomers are having to rewrite a major part of the history of the universe," the observatory said, because the telescope has shown that the strongest star bursts in the cosmos " took place much earlier than previously thought." Those results will appear in the March 14 edition of the journal Nature.

ALMA Director Thijs de Graauw said the telescope "dwarfs anything else we had before," adding "we are eager for astronomers to exploit the full power of this amazing tool."

The antennas of the ALMA array, 54 12-meter dish antennas and 12 smaller 7-meter dish antennas, work together as a single telescope. Each collects radiation coming in from space and the data is brought together and processed by a specialized supercomputer.

Pinera, as the event's guest of honor, instructed the researchers inside the observatory to turn on the telescopes, which then rotated to point towards the sky.

The observatory cost approximately 1.5 billion dollars, derived in part from the European Southern Observatory, the U.S. National Science Foundation and Japan's National Institutes of Natural Sciences.

As part of the inauguration ceremony, the Atacama indigenous group performed a ceremony requesting the permission of "Pachamama, " or Mother Nature, to make use of the site.

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(Editor:WangXin、Wang Jinxue)


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