“Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.” – Platon.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

Astronomical Observatory – Atacama

AUTHOR

Chile on the go

CATEGORY

Activities

PUBLISHED

January 13th, 2022

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chileonthego

F ancy yourself in a place where you may almost “touch the stars”, where you are embraced by the immensity of the universe, where you may suddenly appreciate and enjoy the creation like you have never done before. Chile boasts an extraordinary “balcony” for such experience, and in Chile On The Go we will reveal all its secrets.

The location of the observatories in this amazing country is not arbitrary or accidental. The territory becomes a perfect stage, which in turn has been found to be especially suitable for scientific advances of great significance for mankind. In today´s post we will be describing three outstanding observatories and the chance for travelers to visit them while in this country.

Our point of departure will be ALMA, a spot for the observation of stars. Nicolás Lira Turpaud, the communications coordinator for this observatory, shared with us some very interesting details that provide an insight into these fascinating spaces.

The Andes Mountains act as a natural barrier to the cloud cover that may enter from the east and to the cold air masses from the Pacific Ocean that may remain there. The dry strip, the altitude, and the conditions of the territory make the atmosphere much thinner, which prevents any interference with the signal from space”, explains Nicolás.

Observatorio astronómico – Atacama

ALMA

ALMA not only boasts the largest radiotelescope in the world, but it is also the base of operations for 21 countries that participate in diverse astronomical projects. Its construction started back in 2004 and, very soon, this observatory managed to win international acclaim. It is located 2,900 meters above sea level, 40 minutes by car from San Pedro de Atacama, which makes it another good reason for traveling around this Chilean region.

According to our guest interviewee today, “ALMA is highly significant for the advancement of astronomy, as it is the largest and most formidable observatory in operation. Distinguishing details, the speed of the diverse sources (…) each time ALMA observes something, this is likely to be the first time to have been observed. Here is where new scientific knowledge is developed. It is like exploring a brand new continent.”.

And do you know what the best of all is? ALMA is open to members of the public who wish to visit its facilities. In normal weather, the observatory opens on Saturdays and Sundays and may be reached by buses that leave from San Pedro de Atacama.
To catch the bus to the observatory you must register on ALMA´s website.

It goes without saying that visitors must pay special attention to the measures taken by the observatory in order to ensure their own safety and that of the workers. “During the tour, you will be able to visit the base camps located 2,900 meters above sea level, the control room, the laboratory, the antennas array, as well as talk with scientists and engineers to learn about the dynamics and latest breakthroughs (in ALMA).”

Alma Astronomical Observatory – Atacama

PARANAL OBSERVATORY

A little over an hour from Antofagasta lies another fascinating destination. We are talking about the Paranal Observatory, which is located 2,635 meters above sea level on a mountain bearing the same name (Paranal). For those who would like to visit it, there is a route from San Pedro de Atacama, and the trip takes almost 5 hours.

The guided visits, which are free of charge, are also carried out on weekends. You must register on the official website to reserve your place. Here, you will be able to tour the Visitors Center and see an exhibition about the site and astronomy in general, be taken to the VLT platform and enter the dome of one of the 8.2 –meter Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope. You will also be shown into the control room and take a look inside the Paranal Residency. The site´s most valued telescopes include the Very Large Telescope, the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy and the VLT Survey Telescope.

Paranal Astronomical Observatory – Atacama

LA SILLA OBSERVATORY

To the south of Atacama, some 600 km away from Santiago de Chile and 2,400meters above sea level sits La Silla Observatory. Far from the light pollution, this outstanding scientific center plays a highly significant role in the world of astronomy. The tour starts at the Visitors Center to enjoy an exhibition, which is followed by a visit to the ESO 3.6-meter telescope – currently home to the largest extra solar planet hunter- The tour finishes with a visit to the New Technology Telescope. Like when visiting the Paranal Observatory, you must reach the site 30 minutes ahead of the reservation time and are advised to wear sunglasses, carry plenty of water and, most importantly, be eager to discover the universe.

La Silla Astronomical Observatory – Atacama

Recommendations

– According to the experts, the best time of the year to visit these sites is between late April and December, when the weather is stable. The low temperature at this time is a factor to bear in mind, though.

– For those who love astronomy and the captivating world of observation, here are some interesting facts: by following these sites on their social media accounts you will have access to further audiovisual material to continue learning about the topic. Occasionally, virtual forums and virtual tours are organized.

– If interested in combining your trip with a visit to one or more of these observatories, please do not hesitate to contact one of our agents, who will gladly provide you with all the necessary information.