National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

Loading Receivers into an ALMA Antenna


Loading Receivers into an ALMA Antenna

At the 5000 m elevation ALMA Array Operations Site, I photographed a scene from the work to load receivers into a 12 m antenna. The receivers are loaded into their designated positions in the antenna using a specialized vehicle for lifting up containers, like one you might see at an airport. The object which has been pulled out of the container by the staff member is the cryostat (cryogenic vacuum container) housing the receivers. The cryostat is positioned on the focal plane of the antenna to catch weak radio waves from cold space.

Specialized Vehicles to Support Work in a Severe Environment

The two identical vehicles dedicated to installing the receivers are called the Front-End Service Vehicles: FESV. The receivers require maintenance about once a year . It would be difficult to transport each 100 ton antenna to the ALMA Operations Support Facility (altitude 2900 m) every time, so just the cryostats containing the receivers are removed and transported. In order to transport the receivers, which are precision instruments, while maintaining them at -269 degrees, generators to supply electrical power are integrated into the vehicles. In addition, a small forklift and various tools needed for mounting the receivers into the antenna are also installed. These vehicles can be said to be the powerful support behind ALMA’s results. Because these vehicles were developed in Taiwan, #1 was given the name “Mei-Hua” (plum blossoms) and #2 was given the name “Lan-Que” (Taiwan Blue Magpie, Urocissa caerulea, a bird indigenous to Taiwan).

Text by: Masaaki Hiramatsu (NAOJ Chile Observatory / Public Relations Center)
Translation by: Ramsey Lundock (NAOJ)