Telescopes from Space!

Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut currently living aboard the International Space Station as part of Expedition 23, loves sending back gorgeous pictures of the Earth and Moon via his Twitter feed, astro_soichi. This morning, I woke up to a lovely picture of the Atacama Desert, complete with a from-orbit view of the ALMA OSF.

Don’t yet know your radio astronomy alphabet soup? ALMA is the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array, a really powerful radio interferometer that will probe the sky with much higher sensitivity in the millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths than ever before. Astronomers will be able to do groundbreaking research in star formation, planet formation, galaxy evolution, and more. Yeah, it’s a big deal. The telescope itself is being constructed at the “high site” of 16,000 ft (5000 m) called the AOS, or Array Operations Site. That’s a wee bit high for we oxygen breathing humans to work comfortably every day, so the base of operations is the OSF, or Operations Support Facility, at an altitude of “just” 9,500 ft (2900 m). The OSF is what was captured by the orbiting astronaut. Cool.

Get more of your weekly space fix at the Carnival of Space #147 at WeirdSciences!