ALMA Peers Into Space From Chile’s Mountains

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On a bitterly cold afternoon, a small team of engineers moves slowly across Chile's Chajnantor plateau.

By Gideon Long

Bundled up against the biting wind, they stop under one of the dozens of giant telescopic dishes scattered across the moon-like landscape.

They unfold a stepladder and clamber up into the back of the dish to carry out routine maintenance.

Each man carries oxygen. At over 5,000m (16,400ft) above sea level, the air here is so thin it is difficult to breathe.