You are currently viewing The Noema radio telescope managed by Iram, headquartered in Grenoble, has just been inaugurated in the Hautes Alpes

The Noema radio telescope managed by Iram, headquartered in Grenoble, has just been inaugurated in the Hautes Alpes

IN BRIEF – The Noema radio telescope, installed on the Bure plateau in Dévoluy (05), was inaugurated on September 30, 2022. This new major European infrastructure for radio astronomy has just reached its full capacity with the commissioning of its last antenna. Fruit of more than forty years of scientific cooperation between France, Germany and Spain, it will allow unprecedented observations.

After having reached its full capacity, the Noema radio telescope has just been inaugurated at the end of September in the Hautes-Alpes. The Noema observatory (NORthern Extended Millimeter Array) was originally the Bure plateau interferometer, inaugurated in 1989. It was built and is managed by the Institute of Millimetric Radio Astronomy (Iram), world leader in the field whose the head office is in Grenoble.

The project to make the most powerful millimeter radio telescope in the Northern Hemisphere » was born in 2011. Eight years after the inauguration of its first antenna in 2014, it now has « twelve antennas of 15 meters » who move “on tracks up to 1.7 kilometers “.

Noema observatory on the Bure plateau. © Iram

This new astronomy research tool has impressive resolving power, which allows scientists to “ to collect light that has traveled up to 13 billion years to reach Earth “. According to the CNRS, he would be able to distinguish a mobile phone from a distance of more than 500 kilometers “. Indeed, Noema’s twelve antennas have very high sensitivity receivers, ” close to quantum limits “.

The interferometry technique consists in pointing all the antennas towards the same region of space. The researchers then combine the signals using a supercomputer. Their final resolving power is equivalent to that of a gigantic telescope.

Already exceptional results

In addition, by modifying the configuration of the antennas, it is possible to “zoom in” on a celestial object to observe its details. Modular configurations allow the antenna array to function as ” a vari-lens camera “.

It is also one of the few radio observatories in the world able to carry out ” multi-line observations “, that is to say, ” simultaneously measure a large number of signatures of molecules and atoms “. In total, more than 5,000 researchers from all over the world conduct their research with Noema.

This exceptional telescope allows them to study the cold matter of the cosmos, just a few degrees above absolute zero. But also the formation, composition and dynamics of entire galaxies, stars in formation and at the end of their life, comets…

Noema is also active in the international collaboration EHT, which is at the origin of the first images of black holes. Among the many discoveries made possible by Noema, there is also the observation of the most distant galaxy known to date. This one is very old: it appeared shortly after the Big Bang!