Building ALMA

almaHow the real ALMA will look. Credit: ESO/Calcada/Heyer/Zodet

ALMA is the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, a huge arrangement of 80 astronomical antennas currently being built by several organisations on the arid plains of the Atacama Desert, in Chile. It will observe the sky to explore in detail, amongst other things, the origins of the Universe, stars and extrasolar planets. This morning I had somewhat smaller ambitions.

Stuart mentioned on Wednesday about the instructions/plans for a model ALMA antenna that the team at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan — who are involved in building ALMA — have on their website. So this morning I thought I’d have a go at making one. I printed the plans out and had them photocopied onto 300gsm A4 card at the local stationery store. A few hours later I had something that, remarkably for me, actually looked like the antenna in the instructions. Here are a few pictures I took during the construction process.

makingalmaMy attempt at making the NOAJ’s ALMA model. Credit:

In (1) the main dish and part of the fork arms are done; in (2) you can see the base taking shape (I substituted a small piece of dowel to support the weight of the main dish) and (3) shows the finished model. If you want the plans to build your own ALMA antenna then they are on the NOAJ website here and you can find out more about the project itself on the new ALMA website here. Now though, I’ve got to find the time to build the other 79!


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