ALMA will help with real chemistry in space

ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, currently being built in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile will give scientists unprecedented instrumentation with which to explore the universe spectroscopically. "We're going to be able to do real chemical analysis of the gaseous 'nurseries' where new stars and planets are forming, unrestricted by many of the limitations we've had in the past," explains Anthony Remijan of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia. More than 170 molecules have been identified in space but ALMA's 66 high-precision antennas and advanced electronics will give astrochemists even better opportunities for molecule hunting and might even reveal more of the building blocks of life in space. Tests on the latest data already available from the fledgling ALMA equipment have validated observations against laboratory spectra.