Europe's intergovernmental astronomy organization is expected to operate by 2025 the research complex in Paranal, which will be 20 times larger and 10 times more sensitive than the structures currently studying this type of radiation.
Technological developments in expanding our knowledge of space have not slowed down, and in this aspect Chile continues to be a source of good news. The European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere - ESO - signed an agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to house the planet’s largest set of gamma-ray telescopes, in Chile.
The project, which is to be developed at the Paranal Observatory some 130 kilometers from Antofagasta, forms part of the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) and is the result of a scientific collaboration plan signed between Chile’s national commission for scientific and technological research, Conicyt, and the international organization. The plan calls for the construction of 99 antennas in the Atacama Desert, which with another 19 units in the northern hemisphere, on La Palma Island in the Canary Islands, will allow for "access to the heavens." The project is slated to be completed in 2025.
"This project is unique," said CTA managing director Federico Ferrini. "It will be the largest observatory open to the scientific community, dedicated to research with gamma rays which are born from the universe’s most intense phenomena.
"The possibilities will be impressive with this structure, 20 times bigger than the current structure, and with which we will be able to observe astrophysical phenomena that until now we have been unable to study in such detail," he added.
It will be through this technology, 10 times more sensitive than existing telescopes, that phenomena in the universe can be studied with unprecedented precision, such as that surrounding black holes, the cosmic void, the remnants of the Big Bang and the role played by relativistic cosmic particles. As the nature of this matter is studied, as well as forces going beyond the Standard Model, this could even lead to a completely new type of physics.
According to Ferrini, the current gamma-ray systems consist of a few individual instruments and differ from the ALMA Observatory - which in June 2014 saw the installation of its 66 initially planned antennas - because they are searching for a completely different frequency interval. According to him, one system will look on one side of the visible radiation and one system will look on the other side.
"At ALMA they will see what is called submillimeter radiation, with much less energy than that typically found in visible optical radiation. We are going to look for a vision that is much more energetic than visible radiation," said Ferrini.
Conditions outlined in the agreement include 10% of observation time reserved exclusively for research by Chilean scientists. Also, Conicyt will participate on various committees and will receive an annual contribution from the CTA, which will go towards a Chilean development fund related to astronomy and the Antofagasta regional government.
Did you know that 40% of the world's astronomical observation takes place in Chile? To know more, read the following article.