Minister of Science highlights reactivation of astronomical activity and innovation at LCO in the face of the pandemic

At the observatory located in the Atacama region, Minister Couve learned about the initiatives to advance in the operations phase at this stage of the pandemic and the state of construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), which will become one of the largest telescopes in the world. 

As part of a territorial deployment in the regions of Atacama and Antofagasta focused on the promotion of astronomy in Chile, the Minister of Science, Andrés Couve, visited together with the astronomer and Seremi of Science of the Northern Macrozone, Daniela Barría, the Las Campanas Observatory (LCO) of the Carnegie Institution for Science and the construction site at an altitude of more than 2,500 meters above sea level of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), which will become one of the largest telescopes in the world. 500 meters of altitude of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), where the 22-story high structure and the instrument will be installed, which will have five to ten times more light gathering capacity than other telescopes in the world, and even the Hubble telescope orbiting the earth.

 During the visit, the authorities were received by the director of the LCO and Carnegie representative in Chile, Leopoldo Infante, and the GMT representative in our country, Miguel Roth, who presented the facilities and highlighted the progress of the scientific equipment towards a phase of night operations this week, after a series of restrictions during the last year due to the COVID-19 health emergency.

Authorities in front of the 6.5 meter mirror of the LCO Clay Telescope. From left to right: Leopoldo Infante (LCO Director), Andrés Couve (Minister of Science), Giovanni Leone (Institute of Astronomy and Planetary Sciences, INCT, of the University of Atacama), Miguel Roth (GMT legal representative in Chile), Demian Arancibia (head of the Future Team of the Ministry of Science), Daniela Barría (SEREMI of Sciences of the Northern Macrozone), Ezequiel Treister (academic at the UC Astrophysics Institute) and David Osip (LCO Associate Director). Credit: Las Campanas Observatory.

 “The pandemic has significantly impacted scientific activity, but has also enabled innovations to incorporate health measures into research processes. Today we learned how the Las Campanas Observatory teams have successfully adapted to these conditions, incorporating protocols and new forms of observation through technology and maintaining sanitary safeguards. This week’s progress in the reactivation of night operations in the Magellan telescopes (Baade and Clay) and face-to-face observations is great news for astronomical activity at a global level”, said Minister Couve.

Swope Telescope and du Pont Telescope (Credit: Ministry of Science).

Swope Telescope and du Pont Telescope (Credit: Ministry of Science).

The director of the LCO, Leopoldo Infante, pointed out that in the year in which the 50th anniversary of the observatory is celebrated -for the first astronomical observation from the Henrietta Swope Telescope- receiving researchers again in person at the facilities is great news: “Although during the pandemic we have not received international observers at LCO, since the observations are made remotely, the community has remained expectant to make their observations. Some projects have suffered delays and postponements, others have been carried out normally thanks to the work of support astronomers who have been hired locally,” he explained.

At the meeting, the authorities addressed the astronomical community’s concern for the protection of the skies from light pollution. After a presentation by Mark Phillips, director emeritus of the Las Campanas Observatory and member of the board of the Fundación Cielos de Chile, and Ezequiel Treister, an academic from the Instituto de Astrofísica UC, who presented on the challenges of astronomy in Chile, the Minister of Science explained the work carried out by a scientific council formed by outstanding representatives of the astronomical community who, at the request of the Ministry of Science, evaluated and presented a proposal of areas that should be specially protected from light pollution due to their scientific and research value.

 “In this process of evaluating our regulations, the Ministry of Environment has already received the proposal of areas of scientific interest for astronomical observation. This joint effort will allow us to protect our skies for the development of astronomy, which has become a hallmark of Chile on the international scientific scene,” added the minister.

Source: Ministry of Science

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