The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) is an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes in the Atacama desert of northern Chile. Since a high and dry site is crucial to millimeter and submillimeter wavelength operations, the array has been constructed on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) altitude, near Llano de Chajnantor Observatory and Atacama Pathfinder Experiment. Consisting of 66 12-metre (39 ft) and 7-metre (23 ft) diameter radio telescopes observing at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, ALMA is expected to provide insight on star birth during the early universe and detailed imaging of local star and planet formation.
ALMA is an international partnership among Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Chile. Costing about US$1.4 billion, it is the most expensive ground-based telescope in operation. ALMA began scientific observations in the second half of 2011 and the first images were released to the press on 3 October 2011. The array has been fully operational since March 2013.
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