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University of Tokyo inaugurates world’s highest observatory in Chile

InvestChile - May,7,2024

Located in the Atacama Region, at 5,640 meters above sea level, it houses a 6.5-meter optical-infrared telescope that took 26 years to plan and construct.  


The University of Tokyo has inaugurated the Atacama Observatory (TAO). It has been built on the summit of Cerro Chajnantor in the Antofagasta Region, at 5,640 meters above sea level.  

TAO also houses a 6.5-meter optical-infrared telescope. The telescope will focus on understanding the nature of the universe, according to Emol’s academic section.  

After 26 years of planning and construction, TAO is officially now the highest observatory in the world, and has been awarded a Guinness World Record.  

This new observatory is located near the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array) radio telescope, one of the largest astronomical projects in the world, in which an international association of countries participates.  

Professor emeritus of the Japanese university, Yuzuru Yoshii, has directed the TAO project since it began 26 years ago, and has been the principal researcher since 1998. He stated that the goal is «to clarify the mysteries of the universe, such as dark energy and the first primordial stars. To do this, it is necessary to observe the sky in a way that only TAO can.»  

«Of course, it has state-of-the-art optics, sensors, electronics and mechanisms, but the unique altitude of 5,640 meters is what gives TAO such clarity of vision. At that altitude, there is little humidity in the atmosphere to affect its infrared vision,» the professor added.  

Altitude problems  

A difficulty for astronomers working at TAO is the altitude. The risk of altitude sickness is clear, especially at night. However, for Professor Takashi Miyata, who was responsible for the construction of the observatory, the arid environment and altitude pose numerous advantages.  

«TAO will be the only ground-based telescope in the world capable of clearly seeing mid-infrared wavelengths. This area of the spectrum is extremely good for studying the environments surrounding stars, including planet-forming regions,» Miyata emphasized in an article published by the University of Tokyo.  

The official website of the TAO project also highlights the advantages of the environment. It indicates that the telescope allows us to observe distant galaxies, the activities of celestial bodies hidden in dust and gas, and the dust surrounding stars, among other research possibilities.  

More than twelve observatories and radio observatories are located in northern Chile, most in the regions of Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo. Twenty-nine municipalities in these three regions have been declared areas with scientific and research value for astronomical observation. 

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Topics: Global services- Astronomy



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