Soon, astronomers will have the opportunity to study radio signals emitted at the time of the universe’s reionization, that is, when the cosmos was less than 1 billion years old. The new receivers of the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope have just “open their eyes” for the first time in a successful test, increasing the wavelengths that ALMA can observe.
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A new set of receivers capture radio waves with lengths between 6 and 8.5 mm, which will allow astronomers to observe the early universe and unravel how planets form. Until then, the eight of the ten planned receivers (bands to 3) covered wavelengths between 0.3 and 3, 6 mm.
The new range between 6 and 8.5 cm is ideal for studying two scientific targets: the epoch of reionization, which was when the first stars formed and filled the cosmos with high-energy radiation, and the grains of dust in star-forming regions and protoplanetary disks. This second type of study will provide more information about the processes that lead to the formation of planets, asteroids, comets and moons.
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Finally, the final set ALMA receivers are already underway. Recently, the observatory’s administrators signed a contract for the development of the set, which will be led by a consortium of European institutions. The new receivers make up band 1, while the last one to be installed will form band 2.
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