Astronomy in Chile

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Incoming President of Chile Michelle Bachelet meets senior ESO Director General Tim de Zeeuw.[1]

Chile can be considered the astronomy capital of the world. At present (2011),[2] Chile is home to 42% of the world's astronomy infrastructure of telescopes, and by 2018 it will contain 70% of the global infrastructure. In the Atacama desert region in north, the skies are exceptionally clear and dry for more than 300 days a year. These optimal conditions have led the world's scientific community to develop in the Atacama desert the most ambitious astronomical projects in the history of mankind.[3][4]

Chile welcomes a diverse and active astronomical community that includes Chilean and international professionals and others, such as astronomers, engineers, students, teachers and amateurs.

The first documented testimony of an astronomical measurement done in Chile is the observation of a lunar eclipse by the soldier Pedro Cuadrado Chavino (June 1582).[5] He used a classic Greek method to obtain the latitude of the city of Valdivia based on the eclipse's measurements. In 1849, during the government of Manuel Bulnes, a scientific mission of the U.S. navy run by James M. Gilliss arrived to Chile for observing Venus and Mars to calculate the Earth-Sun distance. The Gilliss mission established the first astronomical observatory in the Cerro Santa Lucia (Santiago). In 1852, the facilities were transferred to Chile and the National Astronomical Observatory was created.[6] During the second half of the 20th century, the U.S. and European observatories were installed in different locations of the north of the country:[7] La Silla, Cerro Tololo, Las Campanas and later Cerro Paranal, Cerro Pachon and Chajnantor.

Chilean Astronomical Institutions[edit]

Professional astronomy[edit]

CATA is the largest Chilean project of R&D in astronomy’s technologies. It’s located in Calán Hill (Cerro Calán), in Santiago, Chile. This center brings together the largest amount of astronomers in Chile from three universities: Universidad de Chile, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Universidad de Concepción. CATA develop nine different areas: 6 focused in scientific research, 3 focused on technology advances, and 1 of Education & Outreach (to students, teachers and general public).

This Center its mainly dedicated to supernovae research, it gathers astronomers from: Universidad de Chile, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Universidad Andrés Bello.

Northern Chile[edit]

Central Chile[edit]

Southern Chile[edit]

Amateur astronomy[edit]

International astronomical institutions in Chile[edit]


Existing facilities[edit]

Picture of La Silla Observatory taken from Las Campanas Observatory

Future facilities[edit]

Further information on Extremely large telescope.

Light pollution[edit]

  • Light Pollution Office (OPCC): depends on the Comision Nacional de Medio Ambiente (CONAMA) and the international observatories.
  • IDA-Chile: National section of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).


Undergraduate programs[edit]

Graduate programs[edit]

  • Master in Astronomy (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)
  • Master in Astronomy (Universidad de La Serena)
  • Ph.D in Astronomy (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)
  • Master in Astronomy (Universidad de Chile)
  • Ph.D. in Astronomy (Universidad de Chile)
  • Master in Astronomy (Universidad de Concepción)
  • Ph.D. in Astronomy (Universidad de Concepción)

School programs[edit]


Professional astronomers[edit]

In Chile[edit]

In Chile there are more than 100 astronomers,[8] some are:

  • Alejandro Clocchiatti (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile) Main Research Areas: Supernova and High-Performance Computing, member of the "High-Z Supernova Search Team". For this work the PI of the team, Brian P. Schmidt, was awarded the Physics Nobel Prize in 2011 for the discovery of the accelerated expansion of the Universe.
  • Mario Hamuy (Universidad de Chile). Main Research Areas: Supernovae, Distance Scale, Observational Cosmology. Main Awards: Guggenheim Scholarship (2011) Hamuy is the second most cited scientist in Chile, and the most cited Chilean astronomer according to is SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System. (Until June 2011)
  • Dante Minitti (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile) Main Research Area: Birth & Evolution of Structures in the Universe
  • José Maza (Universidad de Chile). Main Research Area: Supernovae. Main Award: National Prize for Exact Sciences (1999)
  • Leopoldo Infante, (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile) Main Research Areas: Birth & Evolution of Structures in the Universe, Star Populations.
  • María Teresa Ruiz (Universidad de Chile): Main Research Area: Brown Dwarfs. Main Award: National Prize for Exact Sciences (1997)
  • Guido Garay (Universidad de Chile) Main Research Area: Star Formation
  • Luis Barrera, (UMCE)
  • Leonardo Bronfman, (Universidad de Chile) Main Research Areas: Molecular Clouds, Star Formation & Galactic and Structure, Astronomical Instrumentation
  • Douglas Geisler (Universidad de Concepción)
  • Wolfgang Gieren (Universidad de Concepción)
  • Ronald Mennnickent (Universidad de Concepción)
  • Marcelo Mora, (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)
  • Ramirez, Amelia (U. La Serena): dynamics and evolution of galaxies, galaxy groups and clusters.

Chilean astronomers overseas[edit]


  • Seguel, Juan (CTIO): site testing of potentian astronomical places.

Amateur astronomers and teachers[edit]

  • Gomez, Arturo: discoverer of the Gomez's Hamburger, a protoplanetary disk around a young low mass star.
  • Jimenez, Carmen Gloria: teacher and psychologist working as Educational and Outreach Expert for the Astronomy Department of the Universidad de Concepcion. She is widely known for participating in the NASA's program "Teachers in Space" with chances to visit the International Space Station or participate as ground-based support for space missions of teachers.[9]
  • Picetti, Battista: physics and astronomy teacher in the Seminario Conciliar de La Serena. He won the Michael Faraday Award for the Best Physics Teacher in 2007. Father Picetti is also the creator of El Tololito (La Serena) and Cerro Mayu Observatory[10]


  • Planetarium of the Universidad de Santiago (Santiago)
  • Gemini's Mobible Planetariums (La Serena)

Publications and books[edit]

  • Supernovas, José Maza, Mario Hamuy.
  • Hijos de las estrellas, Maria Ruiz. ISBN 978-956-304-037-1
  • Astronomía Contemporánea, José Maza
  • Mundos lejanos, Dante Minniti.
  • Con ojos de gigantes: la observación astronómica en el siglo XXI, L. Felipe Barrientos y Sebastian Lopez, Ediciones B. 2008

Astronomy in the media and news sites[edit]


  1. ^ "Incoming President of Chile Michelle Bachelet Meets Senior ESO Representatives". ESO Announcements. Retrieved 12 April 2014. 
  2. ^ [1] "Why Chile is an astronomer's paradise", By Gideon Long BBC News
  3. ^ [2] "A panorama of the Chilean Astronomy", G. Garay, The ESO Messenger, March 2002, N. 107
  4. ^ [3]"Chile has become a world-renowned hub in the field of astronomy". Interview to Mario Hamuy. Source:
  5. ^ [4]"Historia General de Chile", Tomo 3, Diego Barros Arana (1884)
  6. ^ [5] "Cuatro siglos de Astronomia en Chile", H. Quintana, A. Salinas, (2004), Revista Universitaria, N. 83. Publicaciones P. Universidad Catolica de Chile
  7. ^ [6] ESO's early history, 1953-1975. VI - Further developments in Chile; 25 March 1969; The first phase dedicated; The introduction of national telescopes
  8. ^
  9. ^ [7] "Maestra chilena es la primera latinoamericana que se prepara para ir al espacio", Icarito.
  10. ^ Premios EduCiencias: Una vida dedicada a la ciencia y la educación, web site of Explora-CONYCIT.