ALMA is the biggest astronomical observatory on Earth. It was built by countries in North America, Europe and East Asia. You might expect that ALMA is located in one of these three continents. But you would be wrong. ALMA is in South America.
ALMA is the highest observatory in the world. The Chajnantor Plateau, where the 66 ALMA antennas are located, is at five kilometers above sea level. It would take you about an hour to walk that distance – straight up!
If you hold your breath for too long, you will die. Your body needs the oxygen in the air. Without getting enough oxygen, you can’t survive. That’s why divers always take bottles of oxygen with them. After all, under water there is no air to breathe. At the ALMA observatory, it’s hard to breathe normally.
ALMA is located in the Atacama Desert. When thinking about a desert, you probably imagine a vast, boring stretch of hot sand, with the occasional palm tree. But the Atacama is very different.