ALMA Cryogenics
20 Mar 2018




The Atacama Large Millimetre Array Cryostats

Part of CAD rendering of ALMA



Radio telescope dishes making up the ALMA array, pointing toward the upper right, on the desert floor with a low hill behind, and the night sky strewn with stars behind them.

ALMA - the Atacama Large Millimetre Array

The Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), is the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world. It consists of 66 high precision antennas, situated on the plains of Chajnantor, at 5000m above sea level in the Atacama Desert, Chile - one of the driest places on Earth.

ALMA has been built by a large international consortium including the USA and Canada (led by the National Radio Astronomical Observatory), 10 European countries (led by the European Southern Observatory) and Japan and Taiwan (led by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan). The UK participated in a number of areas in this challenging and complex project.

Five steel cylinders standing on four-legged frames standing in a line in a hall.  Each has a pipe coming out of one side with a complex set of attachment points at the end.  The lids of the cylinders are held on with clips, and have various circular ports for instrumentation.

Five of the completed ALMA cryostats


STFC’s Applied Science Division ​supplied the cryostats - each cryostat houses 10 receivers mounted on quick-release cartridges cooled down to 4K. ALMA represents the largest assembly of superconducting electronics ever built, and detecting light at wavelengths between 0.32 mm and 3.6 mm. These allow astronomers to observe cold regions of the universe with unprecedented clarity.​

Looking inside an ALMA cryostat from above with the lid removed.  The interior is shiny metal with a number of sets of small instruments on circular plates, surrounded by lots of tiny components.

Inside an ALMA cryostat


For more information on ALMA see

Contact: Applied Science Division
Anna Orlowska
Tel: 01235 445717​