ALMA helps to take black hole snapshot

Have you ever seen a black hole? Impossible, you’d probably say. After all, a black hole doesn’t emit any light – that’s why it’s called black. So there’s nothing to see, right? Still, astronomers hope to take the first ‘photo’ of the giant black hole in the center of our Milky Way galaxy. And ALMA will play an important role

Life is based on carbon chemistry. Without carbon, there would be no plants, animals, or people. Because carbon is so important for biology, all molecules that carry carbon atoms are called organic molecules. Simple organic molecules, like carbon monoxide (CO) and methane (CH4), are the very first building blocks of living organisms. Organic molecules have been found in the space

Stars are born from large clouds of cold gas. It’s called molecular gas, since it is composed not of single atoms, but of molecules like H2 (two hydrogen atoms strung together) and carbon monoxide (CO, a molecule consisting of one atom of carbon and one of oxygen). Molecular hydrogen is hard to detect, but carbon monoxide molecules emit radiation at

ALMA has helped to solve a fifteen-year-old astronomical riddle. Observations with the 66-dish observatory have revealed the true nature of a huge mysterious object in the distant universe. The object is known as LAB-1. LAB stands for Lyman Alpha Blob. It’s a huge smudge of light in the night sky, about three times as large as our own Milky Way

Have you ever watched an ice skater performing a pirouette? As she draws in her arms, she automatically starts to rotate much faster. In fact, every rotating object that gets smaller will speed up its spin rate – it’s a law of nature. So the same is also true for clouds of gas and dust that contract to form new

Astronomers know how planets like our own Earth were born. When the Sun was young, it was surrounded by a flat, rotating disk of gas and dust. Dust particles, pebbles, and small rocks in this protoplanetary disk slowly clumped together to form Earth-like planets. But the origin of giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn is not so clear. These planets

ALMA looks at the Sun

ALMA has done something that you should never do yourself. The huge observatory in northern Chile has stared directly into the Sun. It’s something that no living person ever should try. The bright light of the Sun would damage your eyes. In the past, people have even become blind by looking into the Sun too long. ALMA has no real

These days, most people live in cities. Little wonder then that most people are also born in cities. But if you want to know where exactly in those cities most people were born, it’s not so easy to find out. With stars, it’s the same. Almost all stars are part of a galaxy. (For instance, our own Sun is part

The 66 dishes of ALMA – the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array – are being equipped with new receivers. They will improve the ability of ALMA to search for water in the Universe. On Earth, water is very important for life. Out there in the Universe, there’s also a lot of water. Some of the water is in the form of

Just like a large tree grows from a tiny seed, planets grow from tiny dust particles. First, the dust particles stick together to larger and larger ‘dust bunnies’. Later on, they grow into pebbles and rocks. Those larger objects feel each other’s gravity and eventually clutter together into planets. For the first time ever, astronomers have now measured the sizes