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SUNS+

STARS LEBANESE MAKING THEIR MARK IN ASTRONOMY BY ALICE HLIDKOVA

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n the Chajnantor plateau of the Chilean Andes, in South America, at an altitude of 5,000 meters above sea level, countless white bowls kiss the sun. An array of parabolic “dish” antennas observe the universe in unison, capturing large numbers of radio waves. The antennas aim with unique precision to detect, track and analyze data in radio frequency, and merge information at a central processor—the largest ever built. If they are perfectly synchronized, a precision much better than one millionth of a millionth of a second between equipment located kilometers apart, scientists are able to see the sky interferometrically. The ground-based radio telescope was introduced to the world as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). In type and scope, the facility could be compared to the Very Large Array in New Mexico or the Institute of Millimetric Radio Astronomy (IRAM) in France, but with a much higher resolution. More than thirty of the sixty-six onsite antennas are able to achieve imaging in higher densities and spatial/spectral resolution. At millimeter and sub-millimeter wavelengths (0.3 to 9.6mm), astronomers are able to study celestial objects such as swirling gas that formed the first stars in the very early universe, billions of years ago. Scientific observations began at the end of September, and the global scientific community raced to take part in the largest astronomical project to date. Professors and students of astronomy, and scientists from various fields of study, submitted close to a thousand proposals for the first round of observation,

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dubbed Early Science. A panel of seventy-five judges assessed applications on scientific value and technical feasibility, and selected around one hundred highpriority projects divided into four broad categories such as Stellar Evolution and Cosmology. Projects were approved from prestigious technical universities, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, prominent research institutions, IRAM and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and world-renowned observatories, Marseilles Observatory in France and European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile. Recipients from North America (including the American space agency NASA) topped the list, followed by France and Japan. Not one recipient from Lebanon submitted a proposal, however, I had recently learned of two Lebanese astronomers that had applied with two separate, non-Lebanese institutions. Dr. Cyrine Nehme from Notre Dame University (NDU), traveled to IRAM to study planets outside of the

THE SHINING RAYS ISSUE

RAGMAG Shining Rays Issue | July 2012 | issue #26  

www.ragmag.co | FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @RAGMAGLebanon | FACEBOOK ragmag | PINTEREST Ragmag | In this issue: TORY BURCH, HANAA BEN ABDE...

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