EDA researchers contribute to ALMA radio astronomy project

Dr Nathan Gomes has been invited to give a presentation at a workshop on THz Photonics in Singapore on 18 October, 2011, on the work carried out by the University of Kent for the international ALMA radio astronomy project.
The twentieth antenna in the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre Array) array of telescopes has just been commissioned allowing scientists to probe the early universe in ways not possible before. Over the next few years, 46 more antennas will be incorporated into the array. The scientific potential is astounding, but ALMA is also a significant engineering feat, with large moving telescopes working at very high frequencies (up to 950 GHz), being synchronised even though they are separated by up to 20km – and all being installed on a plain over 5000m above sea level, high in the Chilean Andes.
The University of Kent team contributed to the development of the system for the distribution of the synchronised reference signals over an optical fibre network, defining fibre types, placement rules, and compensation techniques for environmental variations. Dr Pengbo Shen from the University of Kent team visited the high site to check the operation of the first fibre installations in 2009. This system is a vital part of ALMA, allowing the individual antennas to operate as if they were a single, large (kilometres wide) antenna, providing extremely sensitive reception of distant signals from the universe, and high resolution.