Tue, Mar 19, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Major astronomy project goes live

ASTRONOMICAL SUCCESS:Taiwanese research teams have been praised for their work on a project that aims to explore the universe and shed light on life’s origins

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Reporters photograph the antennas of the ALMA observatory at the Llano de Chajnantor, about 70 km from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, on Tuesday last week.

Photo: EPA

The National Science Council (NSC) and Academia Sinica yesterday announced that an international astronomy project, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), an array of radio telescopes located in Chile, in which Taiwan has participated, was launched on Thursday.

The ALMA project is an international project including countries from Europe, North America and East Asia, in cooperation with Chile. The project has installed 66 high-precision antennas with 12m and 7m diameter radio telescopes, which are capable of observing at wavelengths of between 0.3mm and 9.6mm, on the Chajnantor Plateau 5,000m above sea level in northern Chile.

Wang Jye-ming (王杰明), research fellow and deputy director of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, said the high resolution and sensitivity of the array is expected to provide insights on planet formation, star births during the early universe or even the origin of life and the solar system.

“As an example, the power of the ALMA’s high resolution is like being able to use a telescope at Kenting (墾丁) in Pingtung County to observe a coin or a ladybug on the tip of Taipei 101,” Wang said, adding that the ALMA’s resolution is about 10 times that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Taiwanese research team’s contribution to the ALMA project is mainly on the East Asia Front-End Integration Center — integrating the front-end components into front-end assemblies and testing all the integrated front-end assemblies before they are delivered to Chile, as well as having built two Front-End Service Vehicles.

The ALMA project began calls for academic research project proposals in late 2011, and Taiwan’s research teams acquired 10 projects in the first year and 14 projects last year, Wang said.

NSC Minister Cyrus Chu (朱敬一) said that because Taiwan would cover about 5 percent of the project’s total cost until 2016, the approval rate of Taiwanese research teams’ proposals for academic research with the ALMA had been about 7 or 8 percent since 2011, showing international recognition of Taiwan’s research and execution abilities.

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