The World’s Most Powerful Space Observatory Has Been Brought Down By Hackers

The ALMA space telescope in Chile’s Andes suffered a cyberattack over the weekend, causing its website to go down and its operations to be suspended, the observatory announced Wednesday.

According to the European Southern Observatory (ESO), ALMA, the world’s most powerful telescope for observing molecular gas and dust, studies the building blocks of stars, planetary systems, galaxies, and life itself.

The attack on ALMA’s computer systems on Saturday did not compromise its powerful antennas or any scientific data, the organization said on Twitter.

The cyberattack forced the observatory to suspend astronomical observations, leaving it with limited email services and its website still offline four days later.

“The threat has been contained, and our specialists are working hard to restore affected systems,” said the ALMA tweet.

“Given the nature of the episode, it is not yet possible to estimate a date for a return to regular activities,” it added.

According to the ESO, the ALMA telescope has 66 high-precision antennas spread over distances of up to 16 kilometers (10 miles), allowing it to detect distant galaxies forming at the edge of the observable universe.

It is situated in one of the world’s driest regions, the Atacama Desert, more than 5,000 meters above sea level.

The most distant galaxy candidate to date, located roughly 13.5 billion light-years from Earth, was found with the aid of ALMA. About 300 people work there, 40 of whom are engineers and computer technicians in charge of the organization’s powerful computers, servers, data storage systems, and screens.

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