Chilean university develops software for world-class astronomical project

Created by Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, this software will facilitate functioning of the largest radio telescope center in the world, to be installed in San Pedro de Atacama.

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“Atacama Large Millimeter Array” (ALMA), the largest astronomy project in the world, to be installed in northern Chile, is starting to see the light. Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (UTFSM), an academic institution currently working on the creation of a program known as ALMA Common Software (ACS) designed to empower the center and thus enable unprecedented imaging of the universe, is playing an essential role in development of the same.

The initiative currently being executed by ALMA and CONICYT (the National Scientific and Technological Research Commission) will lead to the installation of an interferometer bringing together a group of 66 radiotelescopes ranging between 7 and 12 meters in diameter at San Pedro de Atacama, providing an unparalleled view of the universe.

Thanks to the area’s elevation, these radio telescopes will be located at approximately 5,000 meters above sea level, higher than most of the atmosphere.

This high-altitude observation process will require the right computer system. In keeping with this requirement, the Universidad Santa María team will develop the ALMA Common Software (ACS), which integrates a series of modules in order to process information from antennae and coordinate their movement, among other functions. This system is scheduled for commissioning in 2012.

It must be noted that  Chile is home to internationally-renowned astronomical success, including imaging of  Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and images of the oldest stars in the Milky Way, merits Chile’s position as the chosen destination for construction of the largest telescope in the world.

This post is also available in Spanish