The ALMA Observatory in Chile was forced to halt its long-term operation due to Covid-19 and may miss many important cosmic events.
The Covid-19 epidemic disrupted the research activities of many scientists. Specialists also have to suspend work due to social separation regulations in many countries.
Moreover, the epidemic situation in South America is still complicated. In Chile alone, there are currently more than 150,000 cases of Covid-19, including 2,450 deaths.
The antenna system of the ALMA Observatory.
Itziar de Gregorio, Head of the Science Department at the Southern European Observatory (ESO), said that at the moment, a small group of scientists remained behind to look after the telescopes but were forced to suspend most activities. observe.
According to Claudio Melo, ESO representative in Chile, the agency is still unclear when astronomy time returns to normal in South America.
Scientists at the ALMA Observatory are afraid to miss important astronomical events that may occur unexpectedly, such as gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) or supernova formation.
ALMA consists of a system of 66 disk antennas with a diameter of 12 m or 6 m, in which the distance between the two furthest antennas is up to 16 km.
ALMA can detect invisible radiation with eyes, can track the moment some stars are born, newborn galaxies, planets around distant stars . In addition, ALMA has can see through the dense dust clouds deep in the universe.
Every year, ALMA observes the universe to 4,000 hours but is expected to reduce this year to less than 2,000 hours due to the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic.
The construction and operation cost for ALMA is about USD 1.5 billion.
ALMA is one of many observatories located in Chile - the country attracts more than half of the world's largest observatories and telescopes. The reason is because the deep lands in the Atacama Desert of the Chajnantor Plateau (Northern Chile) are located in a high, dry place so the moisture in the Earth's atmosphere does not obstruct the view.
Many scientists still describe the sky in this area as intact as before, not much influenced by human, especially light pollution.