Got a New Antenna: The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is located in the barren Atacama Desert in Chile and occupies 75 square miles of high-altitude real estate. The array, which is currently undergoing construction, will eventually be comprised of 66 12-meter antennae joined as a monster interferometer that will use their combined power to create the most powerful radio telescope on the planet.

Today, the project has announced a major milestone: the final North American antenna has been delivered to the site.

With a price tag of $1.3 billion, such a project needed to be a collaborative venture, so the individual antennae have been provided by a club of international partners. The 25th and final antenna from North America has just been rolled in. A total of 25 from Europe and 16 from East Asia will complete the set of 66 ALMA antennae. The array is expected to be complete and fully operational by March 2013.

“This is a very exciting time in astronomy,” commented Tony Beasley, National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) Director. “With ALMA we are taking perhaps the greatest leap in observing power in the history of the science.” via

For more on ALMA, its preliminary observations and the science behind it, read radio astronomer Nicole Gugliucci’s DNews articles: “Powerful Chile Telescope Opens its Eyes” and “Peering into the Dusty Heart of Centaurus A.”