ALMA Discovers Massive Rotating Disk in Early Universe

In our 13.8 billion-year-old universe, most galaxies like our Milky Way form gradually, reaching their large mass relatively late. But a new discovery made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) of a massive rotating disk galaxy, seen when the universe was only ten percent of its current age, challenges the traditional models of galaxy formation. This research appears on 20 May 2020 in the journal Nature.

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ALMA Reveals Unusual Composition of Interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov

A galactic visitor entered our solar system last year – interstellar comet 2I/Borisov. When astronomers pointed the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) toward the comet on 15 and 16 December 2019, for the first time they directly observed the chemicals stored inside an object from a planetary system other than our own. This research is published online on 20 April 2020 in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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NRAO’s Central Development Laboratory: Making the Invisible Visible

Nestled among the hills of the University of Virginia campus are a couple of nondescript buildings. They are home to NRAO’s Central Development Laboratory (CDL). The buildings are easy to overlook, just as it is easy to overlook the work done by CDL. We see photographs of the radio dishes at Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Very Large Array (VLA) under a starry sky, and the beautifully rendered scientific images they produce. But between these two extremes is a complex set of processes that transform the faint radio signals of distant space into usable scientific data. Achieving that transformation effectively is one of CDLs most important jobs.

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Going Against the Flow Around a Supermassive Black Hole

At the center of a galaxy called NGC 1068, a supermassive black hole hides within a thick doughnut-shaped cloud of dust and gas. When astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)
to study this cloud in more detail, they made an unexpected discovery that could explain why supermassive black holes grew so rapidly in the early Universe.

“Thanks to the spectacular resolution of ALMA, we measured the movement of gas in the inner orbits around the black hole,” explains Violette Impellizzeri of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), working at ALMA in Chile and lead author on a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. “Surprisingly, we found two disks of gas rotating in opposite directions.”

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