One of the world’s most advanced radio telescopes is offline following a cyber attack and it’s not clear when scientific operations can begin again.
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (Alma) Observatory in Chile was struck by a cyber attack on 29 October, the Observatory said in a tweet on Wednesday. The attack hobbled the observatory’s computer systems and took both the observatory’s public website and its radio telescope antennas offline.
“Given the nature of the episode, it is not yet possible to estimate a date for a return to regular activities,” the observatory added in a tweet.
The attack did not damage Alma’s 66 radio antennas arrayed across the northern Chilean desert, according to the observatory’s post. Alma is an interferometer, a telescope made up of an array of smaller telescopes working together to function as a much larger instrument. Scientific data collected by Alma is also secure, according to the observatory.
Alma is a partnership between the European Southern Observatory, the US National Science Foundation’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.
Since beginning full-time science operations in 2013, Alma has revealed planets forming out of stardust, observed violent solar flares on nearby stars, and provided new insights into the powerful blasts of cosmic radiation known as gamma ray bursts. Alma was also part of the Event Horizon Telescope project, which took the first direct image of a black hole in 2019.
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