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ALMA Opens Its Eyes
This multiwavelength image of a colliding pair of spiral galaxies, called the Antennae, displays a history of star making. The gravitational upheaval of two, large, dense spirals merging into each other destroys the shapes of the two galaxies and smashes gas and dust clouds into new star-forming regions.
The star- and gas-filled tidal tails are seen here as long, insect-like antennae. The older stars in them shine in pale white, and the gas glows in radio waves shown in this image as blue. (Radio images from the Very Large Array at 21cm. Wide field optical images from 0.9-m at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory.) Orange and yellows represent ALMA's millimeter/submillimeter wave test views.
Credit: (NRAO/AUI/NSF); ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); HST (NASA, ESA, and B. Whitmore (STScI)); J. Hibbard, (NRAO/AUI/NSF); NOAO/AURA/NSF.
Astronomers Kartik Sheth and Adam Leroy of the NRAO's North American ALMA Science Center, and Brad Whitmore of the Space Telescope Science Institute, discussed details of the first scientific observing cycle with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array or ALMA. They explained how ALMA will contribute to understanding the universe.
The scientists also discussed the first test image released by the ALMA collaboration. The image, a composite of views of the "Antennae Galaxy" was taken with several different types of telescopes, including test data from ALMA.
The ALMA image reveals hidden starbirth nestled inside otherwise obscuring dust clouds. The Antennae galaxies are the nearest and youngest example of a prototypical merging galaxy.
Additional discussions centered on a description of astronomers' strong response to the availability of observing time on ALMA, life at the ALMA site, and how ALMA will evolve over coming months from its current complement of 16 radio telescopes to its final array of 66.
Posted by: Sean Source