A millennial interest

The stars want to tell us something. The inhabitants of this planet earth knew this from the very beginning.

Thursday, July 30, 2009  
Un interés milenario Tololo (Photo:NOAO)

Observation of the stars is nothing new in Chile. Thousands of years ago the native Atacameño culture, which mummified its dead, also expressed particular interest in the immensity of the universe and gazed the stars.

At Universidad de Chile it is recalled that the Independence hero Bernardo O’Higgins requested on his deathbed that part of his assets be handed over to President Manuel Bulnes for the installation of an observatory on Cerro Santa Lucía in Santiago.

Five years later, perhaps motivated by the Chilean initiatives, an astronomical expedition by the US Navy under the command of Lieutenant James T. Gilliss set itself up in what would later become the National Astronomy Observatory.

In 1852 the government bought the instruments, buildings and documents from the US operators and in this way Chile obtained one of the first observatories in Latin America. Over 30 scientific papers published in international 19th century magazines were based on research made since then.

According to information in the University of Chile, in 1856 the director of the Astronomy Observatory, Carlos Moesta, calculated a new geographic longitude for Valparaiso and discovered an error in the predetermined data. The discovery caused the entire west coast of South America to be moved on maps. Years later, under the administration of Friedrich Ristenpart, the Cerro Santa Lucía observatory created 50 maps of the southern skies.

A 1927 government decree transferred the National Astronomy Observatory to the University of Chile. By 1960 its facilities were already operating at their current location east of downtown Santiago.

Directory of Astronomers in Chile

Academic centers of the Chilean universities that offer undergraduate and graduate Astronomy programs.

- Universidad de Chile Astronomy Department.

- Universidad Católica Astronomy and Astrophysics Department.

- Universidad de Concepción Astronomy Department.

- Universidad Católica del Norte Science Department; undergraduate degree in physics with a mention in Astronomy.