In the last couple of years, Chile has become one of the main centers for the development of astronomic activity at world level. Discover what are the factors that make Chile one of the most attractive destinations to study astronomy.
The Northern Skies
Astronomic activity in Chile concentrates primarily in the north of the country, from the Antofagasta to the Coquimbo regions. There, the natural conditions of the desertic territory, coupled with its low levels of light pollution, have allowed the area to become a natural laboratory for the development of astronomy.
In 1999, the then Ministry of Economy, Development and Rebuilding issued a norm to regulate light pollution; this in turn gave origin to the Oficina de Protección de la Calidad del Cielo del Norte de Chile. Based in La Serena, the office is in charge of ensuring regulations are applied with the aim of protecting the night skies of the Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo regions, which are widely known for their value for stargazing and astronomical observation.
On the other hand, since 2015 the Consejo Nacional de Monumentos (Monuments National Council) is working on having the skies of the north declared as World Heritage by the UNESCO.
In addition to having the ideal natural conditions for the development of research on astronomy, the north of Chile possesses the infrastructure to take advantage of them. The region of Antofagasta, for example, counts with Paranal Observatory, where the Very Large Telescope (VLT) is located. This system of telescopes is the most powerful in the planet. Also in Antofagasta, in the Chajnantor Plateau, we can find ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array), one of the biggest astronomical projects in the world.
Even though both VLT and ALMA are projects mostly funded by international research centers, they, along with the others observatories of the country, provide the essential data that universities work with in their astronomy programs.
The academic offer
Several higher education institutions have contributed to the development of astronomy in Chile, forming professional at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Universidad de la Serena, for example, offers a Bachelor’s degree in Astronomy as well as a Master’s degree. Moreover, this institution in particular has the advantage of being in the Coquimbo region, close to several observatories. Universidad de Valparaíso, on the other hand, offers Master’s and PhD programs in Astrophysics. In addition to this, Universidad Andrés Bello offers a BA in Astronomy and a PhD in Astrophysics.
If discovering the mysteries of the universe is your passion, Chile has the natural conditions, the infrastructure and the academic offer for you!