Close to 40% of the world’s astronomical infrastructure is in Chile, a figure that is expected to reach 77% by 2020.
What there is around a black hole in space and how the planets close to Earth are formed: these are two of the mysteries that will soon be resolved. Part of the discovery will be made in Chile at one of the country’s 13 observatories, which are able to take photographs and analyze images that hold the answers to these questions.
This is hardly surprising given that close to 40% of the world’s astronomical infrastructure is in Chile, a figure that is expected to reach 77% by 2020. The country’s position in this field is highlighted each year on Astronomy Day, which is celebrated on the Friday in March closest to the autumn equinox.
Fernando Comerón, representative in Chile of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), notes that, regardless of the vision from which it is addressed, the subject is important. “Astronomy is for everyone and inspires anyone, independently of their field of interest. We are here to increase familiarity with it and to transmit that the sky is fragile and must be looked after. Astronomy goes beyond science and it is important that it is understood,” he says.
A similar view is expressed by David Rebolledo, an astronomer at the ALMA observatory, who emphasizes the need to understand that astronomy is the science of Chile and the discipline that publishes most in international scientific journals. “The huge projects that are going to be built will be here in ten years and it is important that people know this in order to be able to take care of the sky and, in the future, participate in the research,” he points out.
He adds that, as well as necessary in order to bring children closer to science, this work to increase understanding of astronomy is also important for the scientific community. It permits access to more funding and increases the number of astronomers interested in visiting Chile to contribute to great findings in which Chileans are ever more present, due to more interest in astronomy and the increase in those studying it at local universities.
The contribution of Chile
The development of astronomy in Chile has been accompanied by the production of hardware and components of telescopes. This includes the detectors of the ATLAS project of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, used to measure new particles far more accurately, and the spectrograph built by a team at the UC Astro-Engineering Center (AIUC). Technology is, however, not the only Chilean contribution. The formation of specialized human capital, say academics, is the country’s main contribution to world astronomy.
According to Leonardo Vanzi, an academic in engineering and a researcher at AIUC, new generations of engineers, trained in science and technology for astronomy, are being produced today by the country’s universities. This undoubtedly has worldwide relevance, he says.
“If Chile really wants to make a contribution to world astronomy, it must invest in science, because today the amounts are insufficient. At the same time, it should have a powerful development policy to represent a significant contribution which, within a few years, means that the young people being trained today are employed in national research centers,” he explains.
This should be done, he adds, without neglecting technological developments, initiatives that represent a contribution to a much larger project. “Current contributions are opportunities that could be immense but, in order to take advantage of them, more investment than today is required,” he says.
It is not only science that has taken advantage of the quality and purity of Chile’s skies. For some years now, astro-tourism has been gaining ground, diversifying what Chile offers and its differentiating value. The Undersecretariat for Tourism has this very much in mind.
Proof of this is the level of hotel bookings in the Coquimbo Region for July 2019 when, in the main astronomical event of the year, there will be a total eclipse. More than a year ahead of this natural event, bookings have already reached 90% in La Serena, Coquimbo and the Elqui Valley.
Source: Diario Financiero
To learn more about Chile's technology scene in Chile, see this article.