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Earth's largest telescope gets to work in Chile after 30 years of planning

Mat Smith, @thatmatsmith
March 14, 2013
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Nestled within the Chilean Andes, the new Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array (ALMA) is now open for space-staring business. The biggest, most complex telescope project to date, ALMA will be able to peer into the deeper reaches of space with "unprecedented power", according to astronomer Chris Hadfield. Covering around half of the universe's light spectrum, between infrared and radio waves, the new telescope should be able to detect distant planets, black holes and other intergalactic notables.

The Chilean desert's lack of humidity was a big reason for the telescope's placement, 16,400 feet above sea-level, aiding precision of the scope. But it's a global project, with the US contributing $500 million and making it the NSF's biggest investment ever. From Japan, Fujitsu's contribution to exploring the final frontier consists of 35 PRIMERGY x86 servers, tied together with a dedicated (astronomy-centric) computational unit. The supercomputer will process 512 billion telescope samples per second, which ought to be more than enough to unlock a few more secrets of the cosmos.

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