The highest observatory on Earth is opened in the Andes

The Atacama Observatory of the Japanese University of Tokyo has been opened in the Chilean Andes. It is located at an altitude of 5,640 meters above sea level and is the highest astronomical observation point on Earth. Scientists plan to use it to study the evolution of galaxies in the early universe.

The new observatory in the Andes. Source: TAO project

The highest observatory in the world

The Atacama Observatory of the Japanese University of Tokyo, or TAO, was opened in Chile. It is located high in the Andes at the top of the Sierra Chajnantor Mountain, which means “place of departure” in the now extinct Kunza language. From now on, this site for exploring the starry sky is the highest on Earth.

The Chilean Andes and the Atacama Desert are one of the best places on Earth for astronomical observations. Its high altitude and arid climate make it so. They provide the clearest and most transparent sky for different wavelengths of electromagnetic waves. Therefore, the largest telescopes on Earth are centered there.

However, the height at which the new observatory is located exceeds even 5050 meters, where the Atacama array of radio antennas, known as ALMA, is located. After all, Mount Chajnantor rises as much as 5,640 meters above sea level.

Construction is 26 years long

Astronomers from the Japanese University of Tokyo came up with the idea to create their own observatory in Chile 26 years ago. The main reason for its creation was the desire to look deeper into space and study the evolution of galaxies in the early universe.

However, the task of building the observatory turned out to be very difficult not only from a technical point of view, but also from a political point of view. The project coordinators had to take into account the opinion not only of the Government of Chile, but also of its public. In particular, many meetings had to be held with the leaders of the native population.

However, the latter eventually turned out to be more inclined to dialogue than the native Hawaiian population. Therefore, in 2006, with their participation, a solemn ceremony was held to lay the foundation stone of the observatory. And soon a new road was paved to the construction site.

And finally, the construction of the observatory is completed. Its main instrument has a diameter of 6.5 m of the main mirror and operates in the infrared part of the spectrum. It is equipped with several instruments that will help it better understand the universe.

One of them, SWIMS, will create images of galaxies from the earliest universe to understand how they came together from primordial dust and gas, a process which features remain hazy despite decades of research.

The second, named MIMIZUKU, will help achieve the main scientific goal by studying the original dust disks, inside which stars and galaxies are known to form.

According to

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