The heavens of the universe
Astronomy in Chile
The privileged clarity of its atmosphere has made Chile become a global center for astronomical observation and the site where the largest telescopes of the planet are situated.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Vía Lactea (Photo: Alma)
In the north of the country, the skies are clean and dry for more than 300 days a year. These optimal conditions have led the scientific world to develop the most ambitious astronomical projects in history in the Atacama desert.
These natural characteristics, which are optimal for astronomy, have over the last decade fostered the investment of billions of dollars by the most important international observatory agencies, in addition to the arrival of human and technical resources whose goal is to reveal the origin of the universe.
In mid-2010, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) chose the Atacama desert as the site on which to build the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). This will be the largest telescope on earth once it starts operating in or around 2018.
Seven years before that, the Atacama Large Millimeter/ submillimeter Array (ALMA), a joint European, North American and Japanese initiative, is scheduled to be scanning the sky.
Chile also contributes with a generation of scientists educated in the country who have deepened their knowledge abroad. They all cooperate in training new students and carry out their own research using the modern technology installed in the north and the chance to use 10% of the observation time.
The contribution by state institutions is no less valuable. The financial and logistical support is in keeping with the growing interest among Chileans and foreigners in astronomy tourism, together with the country’s active role in commemorating International Year of Astronomy 2009.