ALMA’s view of Herbig-Haro object HH 46/47. This image interweaves optical data (pink and purple; from ESO’s New Technology Telescope) with radio observations (orange and green; from the Atacama Large Millimete Array). A newly-formed star is spewing out a large jet at each end, which are seen moving away from us in the optical (left-hand-side). When using optical data alone, the second jet and the jet’s source are obscured. This multi-wavelength view shows us much more about the whole system.
ALMA is a growing array of submillimetre telescopes in Chile. This data comes from the science verification stage of ALMA’s existence – proof of concept observations that still yield cutting-edge research. The fact that images will ultimately be better than this, as the array grows, is astonishing. When I began my PhD in 2006 observations like this were a pipe dream for anything but the largest, closest objects in the night sky.