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Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA)

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Exploring the Wonders of ALMA in San Pedro de Atacama

If you're a fan of astronomy and have a fascination for cutting-edge technology, then a visit to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in San Pedro de Atacama is an absolute must. Located in the breathtaking Atacama Desert of northern Chile, ALMA is an astronomical interferometer that consists of 66 radio telescopes observing electromagnetic radiation at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths.

A Marvel of Modern Science

ALMA is not just any ordinary observatory. It is a state-of-the-art facility that provides invaluable insights into star birth during the early Stelliferous era and offers detailed imaging of local star and planet formation. The array is situated on the Chajnantor plateau, which stands at an impressive elevation of 5,000 meters (16,000 feet). This location was carefully chosen for its high elevation and low humidity, which are crucial factors in reducing noise and signal attenuation caused by Earth's atmosphere.

Unveiling the Universe

Since its inception, ALMA has been at the forefront of astronomical research. The array began scientific observations in the second half of 2011 and has been fully operational since March 2013. Its high precision antennae, operating at wavelengths of 3.6 to 0.32 millimeters, provide unparalleled sensitivity and resolution, surpassing earlier submillimeter telescopes.

A Global Collaboration

ALMA is a testament to international collaboration, with partners from Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Chile coming together to make this ambitious project a reality. With a price tag of approximately US$1.4 billion, ALMA is the most expensive ground-based telescope in operation.

Visiting ALMA

While ALMA is primarily a research facility, it does offer limited opportunities for public visits. These visits provide a unique chance to witness the cutting-edge technology and marvel at the wonders of the universe. However, it's important to note that access to the observatory is restricted, and prior arrangements must be made to secure a spot on one of the guided tours.

Exploring San Pedro de Atacama

While you're in the area, take the opportunity to explore the charming town of San Pedro de Atacama. Nestled in the heart of the Atacama Desert, this town offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage. From the otherworldly landscapes of the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) to the geothermal wonders of El Tatio, there is no shortage of breathtaking sights to behold.

When to Visit

The best time to visit San Pedro de Atacama and ALMA is during the dry season, which runs from May to September. During this time, the weather is mild, and the skies are clear, providing optimal conditions for stargazing and astronomical observations. However, it's important to note that temperatures can drop significantly at night, so be sure to pack warm clothing.


A visit to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in San Pedro de Atacama is a truly awe-inspiring experience. From its cutting-edge technology to its contributions to our understanding of the universe, ALMA is a testament to human curiosity and scientific exploration. So, if you find yourself in this part of the world, don't miss the opportunity to witness the wonders of ALMA and explore the captivating landscapes of San Pedro de Atacama.

Updated on 27 May 2024

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