The LLAMA project is an Argentine-Brazilian joint initiative, whose purpose is the installation and commissioning of a 12m-diameter antenna in northwestern Argentina, at 4820 meters above sea level. This telescope can work in the 35 - 1000 GHz frequency band and will be equipped with extremely sensitive receivers and control and data processing systems within this frequency range, the angular resolution of LLAMA will be in the range of 8 arcsec at 900GHz to 3 arcmin at 35GHz.
Although initially the instrument will work as an independent telescope, one of the objectives of this project is to provide the first one in a series of antennas that would make up the first interferometry VLBI network in Latin America. With this binational project, both countries will be anticipated to what would be the natural future expansion of the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array) interferometer, by placing antennas at greater distances.
Working as a network by providing wider base lines, the LLAMA radio telescope will increase about 10 times the angular resolution achieved by the ALMA interferometer. Thus, sources not resolved by this instrument can be studied by the new VLBI interferometer, placing our countries in an auspicious position in the global radio astronomy community.
Since one of the main objectives is to make interferometry with ALMA antennas, it was decided to opt for an antenna and receiver models similar to those ones used in ALMA. This greatly simplifies the system specification task. The antenna will be provided by VERTEX, the same company that built some of ALMA antennas, which reduces the final price because not investments are required for a new design. At the same time, the antenna will incorporate all the improvements already tested at the NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory). The design/installation/commissioning of LLAMA receivers could count on the participation of experts from Argentina and Brazil, with the benefit of the associated transfer of technology from the beginning of the project. For its design, construction, development and maintenance it is required to have highly specialized human resources in various fields of engineering and computer science. These human resources will be properly trained having direct access to the development of radio astronomy instruments. Thus, LLAMA project will provide training of human resources.
The project includes an initial phase, consisting of the installation of a single-dish antenna. In addition to its scientific value, its installation will allow us to learn more about the logistical problems in the operation of such kind of observatory at high altitude, and generate a fruitful collaboration between astronomers of both countries. In a second phase of the project, it is expected to proceed with the acquisition of equipments for VLBI.
There are few places in the world with instruments located in places like the one proposed in this project. This fact promotes that astronomers around the world compete for access to these instruments. Because of this, projects that require many hours of observation are less likely to be carried out. Thus, this project will allow the astronomical community in Argentina and Brasil to have access to the tool to develop their scientific projects.
In short, this option would allow the development of new professional teams directly related to the various technical aspects involved in such kind of radiometer.