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Thread: Astronomy in the Atacama Desert.

  1. #1 Astronomy in the Atacama Desert. 
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    I watched a programme, last evening on the BBC, about the different types of telescopes used in modern astronomy.
    Part of the programme dealt with work being done on the high plateau of the Atacama Desert. I believe the relevant area is close to the border between Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. I was struck by the incredible beauty of the Atacama, in this region, and the fact that research could be carried out in what must be a fairly hostile environment.
    A tribute to the knowledge, and great technical skills, of the astronomers, and engineers, behind this project!


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    Most observatories are between 2400 and 3000 m above sea level. Although this is already quite high, people can usually adapt to it pretty rapidly. The example you are referrring to is the Chajnantor plain, which indeed is in Chile and close to the Bolivian border. This plain is about 5100 m above sea level. I have been there a few years ago. Yes, the environment is very difficult for carrying out scientific work. You actually should wear an oxygen mask all the time. However, usually, there are only technicians up there - and normally not even during the night, and never alone. The observers operate the telescopes from base stations at much lower altitudes. The operations centre for the APEX telescope is in San Pedro de Atacama, about 2400 m above sea level. The ALMA operations centre is only a little bit higher than that.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    I watched a programme, last evening on the BBC, about the different types of telescopes used in modern astronomy.
    Part of the programme dealt with work being done on the high plateau of the Atacama Desert. I believe the relevant area is close to the border between Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. I was struck by the incredible beauty of the Atacama, in this region, and the fact that research could be carried out in what must be a fairly hostile environment.
    A tribute to the knowledge, and great technical skills, of the astronomers, and engineers, behind this project!
    Some of the panoramic views within the high Atacama desert are Mars-like in appearance. Although certainly interesting and somewhat unique on Earth, I think most places with abundant life most people would consider prettier. It probably would be pretty cool to be one of those engineers, constructors, or astronomers
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    Quote Originally Posted by forrest noble View Post

    Some of the panoramic views within the high Atacama desert are Mars-like in appearance.
    A number of images of the high Atacama shown, on the programme, were very like the Martian landscape!
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    I was supposed to go to Chile and the Atacama back in 1996. It never happened. I ended up going to Bolivia in 2012 for the Southern Skies Star Party.
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