LCO celebrates Astronomy Day in Chile

Since 2014, when autumn begins in the southern hemisphere, Astronomy Day is celebrated in Chile to celebrate the equinox. The event is promoted by the Planetarium Foundation of the University of Santiago de Chile, the Chilean Astronomy Society (SOCHIAS) and the Public Science Program of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation. This year the commemoration was on March 21 and was extended for several days from that date. As in previous years, Las Campanas Observatory of the Carnegie Institution for Science, LCO, joined the celebration with a series of activities in the regions of Atacama and Coquimbo.

The activities began on Monday, March 20 at the Pedro Pablo Muñoz School in La Higuera. There, together with the Giant Magellan Telescope, GMTO, and the Ecoscience Foundation, invited by Explora Coquimbo, experiments were carried out in the LabMóvil Conciencia Astronomía and solar observations for the students of the school.

Then, on Wednesday 22, an activity for students and the general public was held in Diego de Almagro. From 9 am to 8 pm, the community gathered at the Pueblo Hundido cultural center to enjoy activities in the LabMobile, solar observations, and interesting astronomical films in the Mobile Planetarium operated by GMTO.

On Friday 24, LCO and GMTO participated in the science fair "AstroDay Chile", held at the Colegio Seminario Conciliar in La Serena and organized by NoirLab. This activity has been held since 2007 and LCO has joined this event for several years.

Finally, LCO and GMTO joined forces with the Universidad Central Sede Coquimbo to hold an exhibition open to the public, educational and fun to learn more about the mysteries of the study of the universe. This event was held on March 25 and 26 at the LCO offices in La Serena. On both days, attendees enjoyed an immersive experience in the Planetarium, conducted experiments in the LabMobile and toured five stations with various learning activities. One of them was the Inclusive Astronomy program for the visually impaired, who learned through specially created tactile models, from the Moon to asteroids and galaxies represented in 3D models. They also enjoyed stands on the Solar System and a solar observation stand with telescopes, in addition to the astronomy lectures given on both days.

"The combination of organizations dedicated to scientific research, academic institutions and foundations, whose main objective is to make scientific advances known to the general public, is especially virtuous. Astronomy is one scientific area that achieves this union, especially in Chile because of its pristine skies. Las Campanas Observatory has among its objectives the commitment to make this science known to the best of its capabilities", emphasizes Leopoldo Infante, Director of LCO and legal representative of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Chile. "There is extraordinary public interest in astronomy. The message Chile: world capital of astronomy has managed to reach the public with force and that should be celebrated. Bringing astronomy directly to children and the general public is one of the Observatory's important objectives," he adds.

On the other hand, Oscar Contreras, vice-president and representative of the Giant Magellan Telescope, indicates that he is very happy for the joint work to bring science and astronomy closer to the population. "People want to know more about the wonders of the universe. This celebration is an excellent opportunity to remind us that Chile is a privileged country in this area and has a world leadership potential for the development of astronomy, so it is very important that we move forward in opening spaces of knowledge and access to this incredible discipline," he says.

All the activities were free of charge and nearly 2 thousand people from the regions of Coquimbo and Atacama participated in them.

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