The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile was the victim of a cyber attack that affected the official page of the research institution and forced the suspension of all operations, authorities announced.

Even email services were limited immediately after the cyber attack, which shows how powerful the attack was.

Located high on the Chilean Andes plateau, more than 4,800 meters above sea level, ALMA is one of the most powerful and advanced radio telescopes in the world. Moreover, ALMA contributed to the first photo of a black hole in 2019, a collaborative effort between several radio telescopes around the world that formed the Event Horizon Telescope project.

The largest ground-based astronomical project in the world

Fortunately, ALMA’s impressive arsenal of 66 high-precision antennas, each 12 meters in diameter, was not compromised, the institution’s representatives said, and the scientific data collected by ALMA’s instruments is safe.

ALMA is invaluable precisely because it specializes in observing light from cooler substances in outer space, especially gas and dust. This makes ALMA an ideal candidate for documenting the fascinating formations of planets and stars as they first emerge from gas clouds.

Since becoming operational in 2013, ALMA has become the largest ground-based astronomical project in the world, according to the European Southern Observatory, ALMA’s lead administrators.

Thousands of astronomers around the world depend on ALMA

So ALMA going offline is a problem, especially for the thousands of astronomers around the world who rely on its observations and the 300 experts who work on site. The resumption of operation is, of course, a priority, but representatives of the observatory said that “it is not yet possible to estimate a date for the return to activities”, according to Futurism.

At the time of writing, there is no information available on the identity of the hackers or how they carried out the attack. Their motives also remain a mystery.

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