Discovering the Universe in Chile

Chile is a global power in terms of astronomical observation and everyday new initiatives are being created in order to access the wonders of the universe.

Felipe Cantillana | Fundación Imagen de Chile
Felipe Cantillana | Fundación Imagen de Chile

Widely known for its clear skies, Chile has become a global power in astronomy. With different observatories located throughout the territory, especially in the north of the country, Chile is now a key participant in many scientific advances and discoveries of the last couple of years.

But the mysteries of the cosmos are not exclusive to astronomers and physicists, since different organizations have started to open its doors to the public with the purpose of allowing them to discover more about our universe.

In the north of Chile, in Atacama and Antofagasta region, different observatories have been installed, making the most of the amazing skies of the Atacama Desert. The most iconic are the Paranal and ALMA, which have the most advanced systems in the world. It is possible to visit the Paranal Observatory each Saturday and the ALMA during Saturdays and Sunday early in the morning. For both places it is necessary to book in advanced.

Coquimbo Region is another favourite destination to look at the universe, with a weather that provides clear skies for over 300 days a year. Light Pollution measurements have also been implemented in different cities and towns of the region.

In this area, there are different tourist observatories that can be visited throughout the year. The most popular are:

Cielo Sur Observatory – Alcohuaz
Mamalluca Observatory
Collowara Observatory
Pangue Observatory
Cruz del Sur Observatory

Some scientific observatories of this region also offer tours through its installments, such is the case of the Gemini Observatory and the Cerro Tololo Observatory, both under the administration of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). Regarding the first one, it is necessary to make reservation with two months in advance and they are offered only during weekdays. In Cerro Tololo, on the other hand, tours are carried out each Saturday, in two small groups. In both cases the tours take place through the buildings and only during the day. They do not offer night tours.

Valle del Elqui also offers less conventional activities, such a horseback riding tours through different lookouts, allowing a natural view of the sky; along with Astro Experiencias, where tourists are taken to the mountains where they can observe the sky through a professional telescope, while also enjoying a traditional pisco sour.

Santiago also provides with alternatives for those who are interested in space, since it holds the only planetarium in the whole country. The Planetario Chile is located within Universidad de Santiago de Chile. They offer talks, projections of movies regarding the space, and exhibitions that deal with subjects such as astrophotography, the Hubble telescope, and the theory of relativity.

Regions such as O’Higgins, Maule, Biobío an Los Lagos also offer the access to different touristic observatories; it is also worth noting than there is a project for a second planetarium in the Biobío Region.

And for those who want to learn more about the different discoveries that have taken place within our country, there is the app Chile Mobile Observatory. The app gathers different images taken in different observatories of the country. A new way in which technology brings us closer to the universe.

This post is also available in Spanish