ALMA: Seeing the Universe in a Whole New Light

The Atacama Desert in Chile is now home to the largest ground-based radio telescope in the world. The telescope, called the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA), is made up of 66 antennas, at 16,500 feet. From its perch in the high desert, ALMA sits above 40 percent of the earth's atmosphere and virtually all the world's water vapor. ALMA is designed to peer into a slice of the electromagnetic spectrum at millimeter wavelengths - light that is closer to a radio wave than to the optical light that is seen by the human eye. The telescope could detect hidden gases inside galaxies that might hold the key to star and planetary formation.