Astronomers from all over the world are regularly drawn here for their research; among them is Frenchman Alain Mary, who settled in San Pedro and now offers stargazing tours at his Space Obs observatory (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations). Visitors to this largest public observatory in Chile are introduced by an expert to the basics of astronomy and, with the help of a powerful laser pointer, are conducted through the highlights of the southern hemisphere. Also featured is an unforgettable glimpse of distant stars and galaxies as viewed through a telescope.
Another site of interest to sky-watchers is the Paranal Observatory, operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), located about 120 km south of Antofagasta, a short way inland from the coast. Parnal is the site of the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) and the VISTA and VST survey telescopes. The secluded, isolated location, combined with the especially dry air of the mountain setting make it an ideal location for astronomy.
For visitors who don’t have a chance to make it that far north, there’s always the Elqui Valley, where a day of sampling the valley’s delicious pisco grape brandy can be followed with an evening at the Mamalluca Observatory. Taking advantage of atmospheric conditions similar to those further north – including more than 300 clear and cloudless days a year – this observatory offers visitors an introduction to astronomy and the opportunity to look through a 12-inch-diameter telescope for an unforgettable view of the stars.
If you’d like to include an evening (or more!) of stargazing in your clients’ programmes, please be sure to contact your travelArt sales agent.