Institutional support

The country also has multiple state programs to foster the development of Astronomy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009  
Proyecto Gemini Proyecto Gemini (Photo:NAO)

Beginning in the mid-1990s, the National Scientific and Technological Research Commission, Conicyt, began to play a fundamental role in the development of astronomy in Chile. At the time it signed an agreement to allow the development of the Gemini project, with eight-meter telescopes located in Chile and Hawaii.

In 2000 an agreement was reached on the transfer of surplus time on the Gemini telescopes, a consortium that made a US$ 9.3 million contribution for the creation of a trust fund to benefit the National Development Program for Chilean Astronomy and Related Sciences, administered by Conicyt.

The government institution created the Astronomy Program in 2006 to more effectively support the development of local astronomy. Its goals are as follows: 

- to increase the number of astronomers working on cutting-edge issues; 
- to administer Chilean observation time on the telescopes;
- to financially support actions of excellence in domestic astronomy and related sciences;
- to contribute toward protecting the astronomical observation conditions;
- to coordinate the existing projects in the area of Cahjnantor-Atacama;
- to develop an astronomy project in this part of the country to enable the arrival of new projects to Chile.

To avoid light pollution, a public-private institution was also created in Chile called the Office for Protection of the Quality of  Skies in Northern Chile, Opcc, which is tasked with supporting the emission standards and advising on the installation of outdoor lighting systems.

The Opcc operates for the Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo Regions, which it declares an environmental heritage acknowledged as the best in the southern hemisphere for astronomical observation.

As an example of its efforts, in 2008 the Coquimbo Region decided to replace 12,000 public lights in 11 of its municipalities to prevent light pollution for the astronomical observatories located in the Elqui Valley, an initiative that required an investment of approximately half a million dollars. This amount is recovered, because the new public lights are more energy efficient than the older ones.