Science & Tech

Submillimeter array opens one of astronomy’s last frontiers

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SMA offers unique opportunity to observe objects in unprecedented detail

Exploring one of astronomy’s last frontiers at a site near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the submillimeter array (SMA) project offers a unique opportunity for astronomers to observe objects in unprecedented detail. The SMA will ultimately combine the electronic signals from eight 6-meter antennas to imitate the resolving power of a much larger telescope. “An imaging array at submillimeter wavelengths has applications in many exciting areas of astrophysics”, says James Moran, SMA director at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. “The SMA will allow us to peer into regions that are obscured at optical and infrared wavelengths to study low-energy emissions from cold dust and molecules. These emissions often arise in star-forming regions, protoplanetary disks, active regions of distant galaxies, and solar system bodies — all the places where discerning more detail using the high-resolution of the SMA will be invaluable.” The SMA project is a collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Mass., and the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA) in Taipei, Taiwan.