A futuristic transporter

This image looks straight out of a science fiction film on an alien planet, but it’s very real and happening here on Earth. The landscape is the Chajnantor plateau, about 5000 metres high in the Chilean Andes. The antennas are part of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a telescope ESO operates together with international partners. But why is one of them mounted on a gigantic truck?

ALMA comprises 66 high-precision antennas: a main array of 50 antennas, each 12 metres wide, and an additional compact array of four 12-metre and twelve 7-metre antennas. The ALMA antennas act together as a single telescope: antennas close to each other have higher sensitivity to detect extended sources, while those further away can see very fine details.

The antennas of the main array can be arranged in different configurations on 192 pads across the entire site, where the maximum distance between them can vary from 150 metres to 16 kilometres. This image features one of the two transporters provided by ESO, called “Otto” and “Lore”, that move the antennas from one location to another, allowing ALMA to observe details of different scales. 

Even if this image doesn’t show an alien world, ALMA’s technology helps us observe the building blocks of distant planets and might one day help us find life itself. 


Sergio Otarola/ESO

About the Image

Release date:25 March 2024, 06:00
Size:6000 x 4000 px

About the Object

Name:ALMA transporters
Type:Unspecified : Technology : Observatory

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