03/23/2013, 00.00
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Taiwan, a super radiotelescope for black holes

by Xin Yage
A global partnership between the United States, Europe, Japan and Taiwan has created Alma, a next generation complex of 66 antennas. The inauguration took place in Chile, where the telescope was installed.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - Taiwan is making its contribution to the study of the universe: Taipei's Sinica Academy (台湾 中央研究院) has contributed to the creation of Alma (Atacama Large Millimeter / sub-millimiter Array), a new radio telescope with 66 antennas, able to study the formation and status of blacks holes in greater detail. Costing more than a billion dollars, the new next generation complex is the result of a global partnership, launched in Chile on March 13.

Compared to the best existing instruments, the progress is extraordinary: currently, to get detailed information about the blacks holes, 100 hours of observation is needed using Carma (Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy), a system of 23 radio telescopes located in North America. On the contrary, the new Alma telescope should reduce that time to only 10 minutes.

Alma takes its name from the Atacama Desert, where it was installed at 5000 meters above sea level, and is a collaboration of three agencies: the NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory, USA), the ESO (European Southern Observatory) and Naoj ( National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, that works with the Sinica Academy of Taiwan). The organizations began investigations on the site in 1997. Construction of the complex was completed a few months ago.

The telescope will have a sensitivity and resolution far greater than any other sub-millimeter telescope, "with a spatial resolution of 10 milliarcseconds, 10 times better than the Very Large Array (VLA, in the United States) and five times better the Hubble Space Telescope" says Professor Paul Ho (贺 曾朴) of the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics Sinica Academy in Taipei, at the head of the Taiwanese team.

Speaking of the study of blacks holes, Professor Ho says that "their size has only been estimated in a dozen cases,  not being able to see them directly, their gigantic mass is calculated by observing the motion of objects that circulate around them. What defines the blacks holes and makes them 'invisible' depends on their extreme gravity, which in these regions is so powerful that not even light can escape it. "

The expert team at Taipei's Sinica Academy, working closely with the Astronomical Observatory of Japan in this great project, is proud to contribute to the project in Chile, of course, with more accurate and abundant data, opening the way to new discoveries and new theoretical models in astronomy.


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