Name an ALMA Antenna: 10th Anniversary of the First ALMA Image

Humanity’s most complex ground-based astronomy observatory, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), is about to celebrate 10 years since it officially opened for astronomers. ALMA Early Science started on September 30th, 2011 and its first image of the Antennae Galaxies, made using only twelve antennas working together, was released on October 3, 2011. This first released image, from a telescope still under construction, revealed a view of the Universe that cannot be seen at all by visible-light and infrared telescopes. Since then, thousands of scientists from around the world have competed to explore some of the darkest, coldest, farthest, and most hidden secrets of the Cosmos with this astronomical tool.

Name an ALMA Antenna

At ALMA we want everybody to join our celebrations of the first science image captured by the observatory 10 years ago.


By suggesting (and justifying) names for each of its 66 antennas.

What kind of names?

There are 2 categories of names:
– Stars, planets and comets associated with ALMA and/or the brightest objects in the southern hemisphere that are visible with ALMA. See image gallery or press releases for more information.
– Terms in the Atacameño language, Kunza, since the observatory is located in an indigenous territory (for more information see a Kunza-Spanish dictionary from page 25 onwards; source: Memoria chilena).

Send your Suggestions here


September 5, 2021 (8:00 p.m. UT)

After that, a short list of suggested names will be part of a contest where everybody will be able to vote for the final 66 antennas names at the end of September 2021. Results will be known in the week of September 27th to October 3rd when ALMA celebrates the observation and release of the first ALMA science image.

ALMA Antennas

If you take a close look at photos of ALMA, you will see that there are three different types of antennas. 25 antennas were built by the North American partners. European partners built 25 antennas. And 16 antennas (four big and twelve smaller ones) were built by the East Asian partners. So everyone helped to build ALMA.

In total, ALMA has 66 antennas: fifty-four 12-meter diameter antennas and twelve 7-meter diameter antennas. The radio telescope combines signals from each, working as an interferometer, in other words, a single giant telescope equal in size to the total array.

With perfect parabolic shapes and a precision equivalent to within a fraction of the thickness of a human hair, this is one of the most precise antennas in the world.

Unlike a telescope that is built in place and remains there, these antennas are solid enough to be moved between different pads without damaging their high-precision mechanisms. They are moved with transporter trucks that have been designed especially for these antennas and are able to reposition them to adapt to the required observation needs.


The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) -the largest astronomical project in existence- is a single telescope of revolutionary design, composed of 66 high precision antennas located on the Chajnantor Plateau, 5000 meters altitude in northern Chile. ALMA is an international partnership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan, together with NRC (Canada), MOST and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile.

Tags : ALMA Topics