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The largest astronomical project on the planet was affected by coronavirus

Facilities hosting telescopes of  the world’s largest ground-based astronomical project, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), located in Chile in the Atacama Desert have been shut down due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

It’s about the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory, where ALMA is located, as well as the Paranal Observatory which includes the Very Large Telescope (VLT), and the La Silla Observatory and the Cerro Armazones Observatory. This shutdown could have a significant impact on the field of astronomy as a whole because closing them will impact a large number of research projects. More, time-sensitive projects require observations during particular windows of time, which will now be missed. The majority of the staff at the observatories have been sent home.

ALMAproject-on-desert

ALMA has been responsible for recent findings into rarely-spotted medium-sized black holes. ALMA is an international partnership among Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan  and Chile,  costing about US$1.4 billion. The initial ALMA array is composed of 66 high-precision antennas, and operates at wavelengths of 0.32 to 3.6 millimeters (31 to 1000 GHz). Placing the antennas closer together enables the imaging of sources of larger angular extent.

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