Monday, November 20, 2023

ALMA Achieve Unprecedented Resolution to Observe the Universe

ALMA Observatory:

An international team of astronomers and engineers has successfully conducted an observation that achieved an extraordinary resolution of 5 milliarcseconds, using ALMA's highest frequency Band 10 receiver and an array configuration that spans 16 kilometers. 

This groundbreaking observation allowed the team to capture unprecedented details of a maser around an evolved star within the Milky Way. 

Yoshiharu Asaki, the ALMA Astronomer who led this project, highlighted the collaborative effort: "This remarkable achievement in high-resolution imaging through ALMA's advanced capabilities marks a significant milestone in our quest to understand the Universe. The success of the Band 10 high-resolution observation showcases our commitment to innovation and reinforces ALMA's position as a leader in astronomical discovery. We are excited about the new possibilities for the scientific community."

5 milliarcseconds is certainly an impressive resolution. For comparison, the VLBI array that examined SN 1993J at 8 GHz achieved a resolution of ~1 milliarcsecond. For a single station to achieve this is incredible.


The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) was used in 2021 to image the carbon-rich evolved star R Lep in Bands 8–10 (397–908 GHz) with baselines up to 16 km. The goal was to validate the calibration...and the imaging procedures required to obtain the maximum angular resolution achievable with ALMA.

It's quite interesting seeing that the paper is very focused on what amounts to a test and validation of the capabilities of ALMA, but still got good coverage in the media. This isn't a bad thing at all--usually buzzwordy science results grab all the attention--and it's nice to see a shift towards interest in some of the technical aspects of the field.


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