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Date: 20 September 2018
A Colossus Gets its Name  

Topic Name: A Colossus Gets its Name
Category: Electronics
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Research persons: Dr. Hans Rykaczewski , Otto Rettenmaier

Location: Stefano Stanghellini, ESO, Garching, Germany


A Colossus Gets its Name

Today, the first of the two
ALMA antenna
transporters was given its name at a ceremony on the compounds of the
manufacturer, the heavy- vehicle specialist Scheuerle Fahrzeugfabrik GmbH, in
Baden- Wuerttemberg. The colossus, 10 metres wide, 20 metres long and 6 metres
high, will be shipped to Chile by the end of the month. The second one will
follow in a few weeks.

The transporter was named 'Otto' in honour of Otto Rettenmaier,
the owner of the Scheuerle company. "The rather unusual move to name a vehicle
is a recognition of the remarkable achievement these unique machines represent,"
said Hans Rykaczewski, the
ALMA Project Manager
. "Their sizes alone would justify using superlatives to
describe them. But they are also outstanding as they will operate at 5000 metres
altitude, where the air is rare, and they have to be able to place 115-ton
antennas with a precision of a few millimetres," he added.

"The ALMA antenna transporters are the proof of the excellence
of our staff and of our ability to build heavy vehicles that are at the limits
of the possible," said Otto Rettenmaier. "Never in the history of our company
have we had to comply with such exceptional requirements on material and
techniques as we had to do with these machines. We are proud as a company to
have been able to contribute with such an exceptional piece of technology for
astronomical research."

The ALMA Project, in which ESO leads the construction and the
operations on behalf of Europe, is a giant,
international observatory
currently in construction on the high-altitude Chajnantor site in Chile, which
will be composed initially of 66 high-precision
telescopes, operating at wavelengths of
0.3 to 9.6 mm. The ALMA antennas will be electronically combined and provide
astronomical observations which are equivalent to a single large telescope of
tremendous size and resolution.

The 66 antennas of the array can be placed on 192 different
pads, covering antenna configurations as compact as 150 metres to as wide as 15
kilometres. Changing the relative positions of the antennas and thus also the
configuration of the array allows for different observing modes, comparable to
using a zoom lens on a camera.

Given their important functions, both for the scientific work
and in transporting high-tech antennas with the required care, the vehicles must
live up to very demanding operational requirements. To address these, Scheuerle
has developed and built two very special transporters. Building heavy vehicles
able to transport with great precision
115-ton antennas is not a
problem per se for this company, which specialises in building huge
transporters. The problem however was to produce a vehicle able to operate at
such a high altitude, where the two engines will lose about half of their power
(compared to sea level) because of the reduced oxygen content of the air. With
their two 500 kW diesel engines (nearly as much as two Formula 1 engines), the
ALMA transporters will be able to move at the speed of 20 km/h when empty and 12
km/h when loaded with an antenna.

Notwithstanding its impressive dimensions, the transporter can
be manoeuvred by a single operator, the precise positioning being made possible
by a hydrostatic system while the

electronic 28-wheel drive
allows very precise motions.

"When completed in 2012, ALMA will be the largest and most
capable imaging array of telescopes in the world," said Massimo Tarenghi, the
ALMA Director. "The ALMA antenna transporters, which are unique technological
jewels, beautifully illustrate how we are actively progressing towards this

More Information

ALMA will be able to probe the Universe at millimetre and
submillimetre wavelengths with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution, with an
accuracy up to ten times better than the Hubble Space Telescope, and
complementing images made with ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer.

ALMA will be the forefront instrument for studying the cool
universe - the relic radiation of the Big Bang, and the molecular gas and dust
that constitute the very building blocks of stars, planetary systems, galaxies,
and life itself.

Because ALMA will observe in the millimetre and submillimetre
wavelengths the atmosphere above the telescope must be transparent. This
requires a site that is high and dry. ALMA will thus be installed at the 5000m
high plateau of Chajnantor in the Atacama Desert of Chile, the world's driest
area - the next best location to outer space for these high-accuracy
astronomical observations.

The ALMA project is a partnership between Europe, East Asia and
North America in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in
Europe by ESO, in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of
Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica in Taiwan and in North America by
the U.S. National Science Foundation in cooperation with the National Research
Council of Canada. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe
by ESO, on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
and on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory,
which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc.

About Researchers:

Dr. Hans Rykaczewski

Address Division EP/40 5-A19
CH-1211 Geneve 23
Phone +41 22 767 3097
Fax +41 22 782 4003
E-Mail hans.rykaczewski@cern.ch

Media Contact:

Stefano Stanghellini
ESO, Garching, Germany
E-mail: sstanghe@eso.org
Phone: +49-89-3200-6570

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