This is the first 500 GHz band astronomical image captured by a radio interferometer with unprecedentedly high resolution.
NGC 6302 is a planetary nebula, which is in the final stage of the life of a star with a mass several times that of the Sun. Visible light image shows a bipolar shape of gas ejected from the dying star.
ALMA with the Band 8 receivers targeted at the center of the nebula and revealed that the distribution of carbon atoms is concentrated in a small part, which is similar to a dust and gas disk around the central star that has been found by previous observations with other telescopes.
So far, observations in the 500 GHz band, including emission line from cosmic carbon atoms, have been made with single dish radio telescopes.
The typical spatial resolution of those observations is 15 arcseconds or larger (1 arcsecond corresponds to 1/3600 of 1 degree), however, ALMA achieved a high resolution of 3.5 arcseconds in this test observation.
By installing the receiver into all the ALMA antennas, the resolution becomes even better by 400 times. Astronomers around the world have high expectations for observations with Band 8.
--ANI (Posted on 03-09-2013)