By: Babak A. Tafreshi


Region: Americas

Site: Chajnantor - Chile

Date: November 2011


Sky Zoom 






This view from the Chajnantor plateau, at altitude of over 5000 meters in the Chilean Andes, shows the antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The silver shining dishes are illuminated by the crescent moon. For its time ALMA is known as the most complex astronomical project on the ground. It will eventually consist of 66 antennas, each 12 or 7 meters wide, operating together as a single giant telescope. ALMA is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with Chile. In November 2011, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), one of the main partners of ALMA project, invited 3 TWAN photographers to record the stunning night sky above Chajnantor plateau and the observatory. The dark site's rarefied atmosphere, at about 50 percent sea level pressure, is also extremely dry. That makes it ideal for ALMA which is designed to explore the universe at wavelengths over 1,000 times longer than visible light. This panoramic view spanning about 180 degrees from north (left) to south (right) includes some familiar celestial objects. The prominent bright object on the left is the planet Jupiter. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds can also be clearly seen on the right of the image. These dwarf satellite galaxies of the Milky Way are 160,000 and 200,000 light-years away. The third galaxy in the image is on the far left. The elongated smudge of the Andromeda galaxy (M31) is a cosmic island of over 200 billion stars at the distance of 2.5 million light years from our galaxy. Babak Tafreshi/


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