Observatories in Chile



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Observatories in Chile

Chile provides one of the best sites for astronomical observatories. The Andes provide a barrier to moisture, driven by the prevailing east winds, and three major facilities are located in the coastal foothills in the vicinity of La Serena, about 150 miles north of Santiago and adjacent to the port of Coquimbo at latitude -33 degrees. These are Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, the southern arm of the National Optical Astronomical Observatories (USA), just south of La Serena; the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at La Silla, about 100 miles north of La Serena; and Las Campanas Observatory, run by the Carnegie Institution , just north of La Silla. ESO is currently developing a new site at Paranal, in the Atacama desert, northern Chile. Higher than La Silla, this in an extremely dry site, promising excellent seeing and clear skies. The 4 8-metre telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) are coming into operation in late 1999/early 2000 at that site.

Cerro Tololo Observatory

Sunset and Moonrise at CTIO

The mountain top of Tololo boasts 6 telescopes with diameters ranging from 0.5 metres to the 4 metre Blanco telescope. The two shown in this picture are the domes of the 1.5 metre and 1.0 metre telescopes.

A different view of the 1.5 and 1.0 metres

The Blanco 4-metre


The European Southern Observatory

The western end of La Silla

The westward end of the complex of telescope at La Silla. The nearest dome is the Dutch 90 cm; the living quarters are at the exttreme end of the ridge.

The eastern ridge

The larger telescopes at La Silla. The 3.6 metre is the most distance telescope, with the CAT (auxiliary telescope) in the small silo-like dome immediately adjacent; the 3.5 metre New technology telescope is in the house-like box on the nearer summit; strung along the lower ridge are the 2.2 metre, the Danish 1.5 metre and the 1.0 metre Schmidt.

Sunset at La Silla

The characteristics ruddy hue of the coastal hills as the Sun sinks into the Pacific.

The VLT at Paranal

Two of the 8-metre VLT array at Paranal in northern Chile

Las Campanas Observatory

The 1.0 metre and 2.5 metre at LCO

Las Camapanas is the smallest of the three Chilean observatories. Run by the Carnegie Institution, from its Californian base in Pasadena, LCO was established in the 1970s as a southern complement to Mt. Wilson (and Palomar). With the growing sky brightness on Mt Wilson, due to the Los Angeles complex, LCO became the main focus of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. The main telescope at present is the Du Pont 2.5-metre (the largest, most distant dome in this picture); the second open dome is the 40-inch; the small dome, the Toronto 24-inch (since moved to Argentina).

The enclosure for Magellan 1

LCO is currently building 2 6.5-metre telescopes on the hill adjacent to the DuPont and Swope telescopes. See this link for intermittent updates.