Scientists registered “first light” signals with locally assembled Band-1 receivers at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile on Aug. 14, demonstrating that Taiwan’s antenna technology is on par with that of Europe, the US and Japan, Academia Sinica’s Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics said.
“First light” describes the first signal that passes through the entirety of a radio telescope, from the antenna to a computer screen.
The ALMA is on the Chajnantor plateau in the Atacama Desert, and its 66 radio telescopes allow it to “see” a wide range of light wavelengths, the institute said.
Photo courtesy of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics and National Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology’s Aeronautical Systems Research Division
The array was previously equipped with eight receivers, covering frequencies from 84 gigahertz (GHz) to 950 GHz, it said.
The institute said that the Band-1 receivers are capable of ultrawide frequency reception — 35GHz to 50GHz — and are considered one of the most sensitive antennas in the world.
Ninety-nine percent of the receivers were built and assembled in Taiwan, it added.
In a first test on Aug. 14, astronomers conducted observations of the edge of the moon, followed by a first successful interferometry test using two Band-1 receivers on Aug. 17 and the acquisition of the first radio spectrum on Aug. 27, it said.
The Band-1 receivers are the lowest-frequency receivers used on the telescopes and should be able to better observe red-shifted celestial bodies that are more distant, it said.
Academia Sinica assistant researcher Yen Shih-wei (顏士韋) said the Band-1 receivers would allow scientists to observe regions of star formation, and examine how dust particles as small as 1cm accrete, grow and eventually form planets.
The remainder of the 66 receivers, to be fitted on each radio of the array’s telescopes, along with seven spare units, are expected at the site by the end of next year, the institute said.
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