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The Moon and the Arc of the Milky Way
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The Moon and the Arc of the Milky Way

April 25, 2012
ESO Photo Ambassador Stéphane Guisard captured this astounding panorama from the site of ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, in the Chilean Andes. The 5000-meter-high and extremely dry Chajnantor plateau offers the perfect place for this state-of-the-art telescope, which studies the Universe in millimeter- and submillimeter-wavelength light.

Numerous giant antennas dominate the center of the image. When ALMA is complete, it will have a total of 54 of these 12-meter-diameter dishes. Above the array, the arc of the Milky Way serves as a resplendent backdrop. When the panorama was taken, the Moon was lying close to the center of the Milky Way in the sky, its light bathing the antennas in an eerie night-time glow. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the biggest of the Milky Way's dwarf satellite galaxies, appear as two luminous smudges in the sky on the left. A particularly bright meteor streak gleams near the Small Magellanic Cloud.

On the right, some of ALMA’s smaller 7-meter antennas — twelve of which will be used to form the Atacama Compact Array — can be seen. Still further on the right shine the lights of the Array Operations Site Technical Building. And finally, looming behind this building is the dark, mountainous peak of Cerro Chajnantor.

ALMA, an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

Credit: ESO/S. Guisard (www.eso.org/~sguisard)
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