Largest Telescope Captures First Images

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SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA, Chile, Oct. 3 (UPI) — The largest, most complex telescope ever built, high on a plateau in Chile, has begun its search for evidence of how the universe began, astronomers said.

The Atacama large millimeter/submillimeter array, or Alma, will seek to study processes occurring just a few hundred million years after the formation of the universe when the first stars began to shine, the BBC reported Monday.

The telescope, consisting of an array of giant antennas at almost 10,000 feet near Chile’s border with Bolivia, will usher in a “new golden age of astronomy,” Alma astronomer Diego Garcia said.

The European Southern Observatory, one of the organizations operating the telescope, has released the first images taken by Alma, showing a collision of two galaxies.

The images show concentrations of the star-forming gas at the centers of each galaxy and also in the chaotic region where they are colliding, where new stars and planets will be born.

The image was taken using just 12 antennas, but astronomers say the goal for Alma is to have 66 antennas by 2013.

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