Free new smartphone app shows Chile’s skies in 3D

ALMA develops augmented reality app that allows users to view distant galaxies in three-dimensions using anyone of the telescope’s 66 zoomable antennas

Smartphone users can download an app enabling them to view Chile’s skies in 3D using ALMA’s 66 antenna. Photo via Wikipedia Commons
Smartphone users can download an app enabling them to view Chile’s skies in 3D using ALMA’s 66 antenna. Photo via Wikipedia Commons

Smartphone and tablet owners are now able to view the wonders of the universe in 3D thanks to a new free app developed by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in partnership with Polish company Bridge.

The downloadable app enables users to zoom in on any one of 66 Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) antennas and can be utilized as an educational tool or simply for fun. A print-out PDF file — called a tracker — of the augmented reality image is also available.

By visiting Google Play and the iTunes AppStore it is possible to download the ALMA app while the tracker PDF document will be accessible on the ESO website.

ALMA’s 66 antennas are spread out over 10 miles on the Chajnantor Plateau 5000 meters above sea level in Chile’s northern Atacama region. The most powerful telescope in existence for observing the “cool” universe, that is, of objects at temperatures between a few degrees and 100 degrees above absolute zero, the ALMA array was inaugurated in March 2013.

Bridge, one of the companies behind the app, is a design and technology research bureau developing augmented reality technology. The company brings together specialists from a range of diverse creative fields including product design, graphic and interface design and digital fabrication and web app development.

Downloadable apps highlighting the unparalleled view of Chile’s crystal clear skies have have proved popular in the past. The Mobile Observatory app, which allows anyone to admire the distinct skies of the Atacama from anywhere on Earth, was launched November 2013.

It was created by Fundación Imagen de Chile, and selects the best images from the ALMA, the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) and the La Silla Observatory, all of which are based in Northern Chile.