Renowned astronomer Mario Hamuy, director of the Department of Astronomy of the Universidad de Chile, highlighted Chile’s position as a global power in astronomical terms, considering that one-third of the very large telescopes existing in the world at this time are installed in the country.
According to the expert, Chile’s world position as an astronomical hub is due to the institutional stability of the country and the favorable weather conditions found in the northern region, which has 320 clear nights a year, ideal for observing the skies.
Hamuy explained that the country’s geography is another factor that favors the development of this science, because it offers excellent sites where observatories can be built at over 5,000 meters above sea level.
Thus, astronomy enjoys a privileged status in the country, for both studying and developing the science. Proof of this positive reputation is the decision recently reached by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which chose Chile as the country in which to build the largest telescope in the world, the E-ELT.
Thanks to this Chile is attracting the best scientists in the world, and as a country it has benefited from the creation of job opportunities and the development of astro-tourism. This has led the astronomical observatories to provide the greatest source of income in the northern region of the country after mining.
In a press conference organized by the Fundación Imagen de Chile attended by the accredited media agencies in the country, Dr. Hamuy also took the opportunity to explain the scope of his new discovery, recently published by Nature magazine. Together with a group of scientists, the Chilean astronomer has shown how it is possible to take advantage of type IA supernovas – colossal explosions of stars – whose spectacular luminous flashes can be used to measure large-scale distances in the universe.
“An essential contribution to this discovery about supernovas as instruments for measuring spatial distances was the research conducted from the most modern observatories in the world installed in the north of Chile, such as Gemini South, and the information provided by telescopes from the Las Campanas and La Silla complexes”, indicated the astronomer.
Between 2001 and 2004, he was able to undertake post-doctoral studies at an observatory in Pasadena belonging to the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., USA, thanks to Hubble and Carnegie grants.
Between 2003 and 2005, he was the main researcher for the «Carnegie Supernova Program» project, focused on following supernovas at the Las Campanas observatory in Chile and funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).
He is an associate professor at the Universidad de Chile and since 2008 is director of the Department of Astronomy of the university, one of the most prestigious in the country.
He is the author of 104 ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) publications, with more than 7,500 citations of his works, making him the second most cited Chilean scientist.