Under the Southern Cross – Astronomy in Chile

In autumn and winter 2021/22, the lecture series “Under the Southern Cross” will be held at the Ars Electronica Center. In three lectures, Peter Habison will describe the advantages of Chile as a host country for international observatories and astronomical projects, from amateur astronomy to the largest professional observatories on Earth. The talks will be recorded and then available as videos to watch afterwards. Here is a brief overview of the content of the lectures:

Under the Southern Cross – Astronomy in Chile

On the west coast of South America lies a fascinating country. It stretches from Peru in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south, more than 4000 kilometres along the Pacific coast. In contrast, its east-west extension averages only 180 kilometres and has great differences in altitude from the sea to the highest peaks of the Andes. The cold Humboldt Current off the coast and the high Andes in the east have created one of the driest deserts on earth in the north of the country, the Atacama. Already in the middle of the 20th century, several nations recognised the special nature of this landscape for the exploration of the sky and built numerous astronomical observatories there. The lecture takes us to the north of Chile and reports on extraordinary landscapes and special places where people have dedicated themselves to the exploration of the southern sky.

Lecture date: to follow

In the Olympus of modern astronomy – the observatories of the European Southern Observatory ESO

ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the most scientifically productive observatory in the world. It provides astronomers and astrophysicists in Europe and around the world with state-of-the-art research facilities. In Chile, ESO operates three world-class observing sites in the Atacama Desert. La Silla is home to several medium-sized optical telescopes, while Cerro Paranal is home to the world’s most productive astronomical observatory, the Very Large Telescope. The VLT consists of four 8.2-meter telescopes, four auxiliary telescopes, the VST and VISTA telescopes. The third site is the 5000-meter-high Llano de Chajnantor. Here, ESO is a partner in the ALMA collaboration, which consists of 66 submillimeter antennas. ESO is currently working on the construction of the ELT, a 40-meter-class telescope, the largest optical telescope on Earth. The talk will present ESO as an organisation, its observatories in Chile and some of its most important projects.

Lecture date: 11.11.2021, 19:00 hrs, Link to lecture at Ars Electronica Linz

The largest Eye on the Sky – ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope

At the end of May 2017, construction of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) began on Cerro Armazones in Chile. The largest telescope ever, its primary mirror will have a diameter of 39 metres and 15 times the light-gathering power of the largest optical telescopes currently in operation. The ELT’s optics follow a new design in which light passes through a total of five mirrors and, with its adaptive optics, will provide images around 15 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope. The lecture introduces the concept of this largest optical telescope in the world, reports on the current construction progress and some of the fundamental astronomical questions that will be explored with the telescope. Topics range from extrasolar planets, black holes, birth, life and death of stars, evolution of galaxies, cosmology and early universe to fundamental questions of physics of our time.

Lecture date: 20.1.2022, 19:00 hrs

Images: ESO and Peter Habison