Atacama Desert
Overview
 
The Atacama Desert is a plateau
Plateau
In geology and earth science, a plateau , also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. A highly eroded plateau is called a dissected plateau...

 in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, covering a 600 miles (965.6 km) strip of land on the Pacific
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 coast, west of the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 mountains. It is, according to NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

, National Geographic and many other publications, the driest desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 in the world. The Atacama occupies 40600 mi2 in northern Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, composed mostly of salt
Salt
In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

 basins (salares), sand
Sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

, and felsic
Felsic
The word "felsic" is a term used in geology to refer to silicate minerals, magma, and rocks which are enriched in the lighter elements such as silicon, oxygen, aluminium, sodium, and potassium....

 lava
Lava
Lava refers both to molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. This molten rock is formed in the interior of some planets, including Earth, and some of their satellites. When first erupted from a volcanic vent, lava is a liquid at...

 flows towards the Andes.
The Atacama Desert ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

, as defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature
World Wide Fund for Nature
The World Wide Fund for Nature is an international non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment, formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States...

 (WWF), extends from a few kilometers south of the Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

-Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 border to about 30° south
30th parallel south
The 30th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 30 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Australasia, the Pacific Ocean and South America....

 latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
The Atacama Desert is a plateau
Plateau
In geology and earth science, a plateau , also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. A highly eroded plateau is called a dissected plateau...

 in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, covering a 600 miles (965.6 km) strip of land on the Pacific
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 coast, west of the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 mountains. It is, according to NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

, National Geographic and many other publications, the driest desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 in the world. The Atacama occupies 40600 mi2 in northern Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, composed mostly of salt
Salt
In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

 basins (salares), sand
Sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

, and felsic
Felsic
The word "felsic" is a term used in geology to refer to silicate minerals, magma, and rocks which are enriched in the lighter elements such as silicon, oxygen, aluminium, sodium, and potassium....

 lava
Lava
Lava refers both to molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. This molten rock is formed in the interior of some planets, including Earth, and some of their satellites. When first erupted from a volcanic vent, lava is a liquid at...

 flows towards the Andes.

Setting

The Atacama Desert ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

, as defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature
World Wide Fund for Nature
The World Wide Fund for Nature is an international non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment, formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States...

 (WWF), extends from a few kilometers south of the Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

-Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 border to about 30° south
30th parallel south
The 30th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 30 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Australasia, the Pacific Ocean and South America....

 latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

. To the north lies the Peruvian Sechura Desert
Sechura Desert
The Sechura Desert is located south of the Piura Region of Peru along the Pacific Ocean coast and inland to the foothills of the Andes Mountains...

 ecoregion, whilst to the south is the Chilean Matorral
Chilean Matorral
The Chilean Matorral is a terrestrial ecoregion of central Chile, located on the west coast of South America. It is in the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome, part of the Neotropic ecozone....

 ecoregion, close to the region "Aske".

The National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...

, by contrast, considers the coastal area of southern Peru to be part of the Atacama Desert. It includes in this definition the deserts south of the Ica Region
Ica Region
Ica is a region in Peru. It borders the Pacific Ocean on the west; the Lima Region on the north; the Huancavelica and Ayacucho regions on the east; and the Arequipa Region on the south. Its capital is the city of Ica.- Geography :...

 in Peru.

To the east lies the less arid Central Andean dry puna
Central Andean dry puna
The Central Andean dry puna is an ecoregion, in the Montane grasslands and shrublands biome, located in the Andean High plateau, in South America...

 ecoregion. The drier portion of this ecoregion is located south of the Loa River
Loa River
The Loa River is a U-shaped river in Chile's northern Antofagasta Region. At 440 km long it is the country's longest river and the main watercourse in the Atacama Desert.-Course:...

 between the parallel Sierra Vicuña Mackenna and Cordillera Domeyko
Cordillera Domeyko
The Cordillera Domeyko is a mountain range of the Andes located in northern Chile, west of Salar de Atacama. It runs north-south for approximately 600 km, parallel to the main chain...

. To the north of the mentioned river lies the Pampa del Tamarugal
Pampa del Tamarugal
Pampa del Tamarugal is a vast plain encompassing a significant portion of the Norte Grande, Chile, and originally named for the Prosopis tamarugo trees that used to cover its surface. It is located between the parallels 19°30’ and 22°15’ south latitude and is considered part of the Atacama Desert...

.

Aridity

Atacama Desert is commonly known as the driest place in the world, especially surroundings of the abandoned Yungay town (in Antofagasta Region
Antofagasta Region
The II Antofagasta Region is one of Chile's fifteen first-order administrative divisions. It comprises three provinces, Antofagasta, El Loa and Tocopilla...

, Chile). The average rainfall in the Chilean region of Antofagasta is just 1 millimetre (0.0393700787401575 in) per year. Some weather stations in the Atacama have never received rain. Evidence suggests that the Atacama may not have had any significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971. It is so arid that mountains that reach as high as 6885 metres (22,588.6 ft) are completely free of glacier
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

s and, in the southern part from 25°S to 27°S, may have been glacier-free throughout the Quaternary
Quaternary
The Quaternary Period is the most recent of the three periods of the Cenozoic Era in the geologic time scale of the ICS. It follows the Neogene Period, spanning 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago to the present...

, though permafrost
Permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

 extends down to an altitude of 4400 metres (14,435.7 ft) and is continuous above 5600 metres (18,372.7 ft). Studies by a group of British scientists have suggested that some river beds have been dry for 120,000 years. However, some locations in the Atacama receive a marine fog
Fog
Fog is a collection of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface. While fog is a type of stratus cloud, the term "fog" is typically distinguished from the more generic term "cloud" in that fog is low-lying, and the moisture in the fog is often generated...

 known locally as the Camanchaca, providing sufficient moisture for hypolithic algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

, lichen
Lichen
Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic organism composed of a fungus with a photosynthetic partner , usually either a green alga or cyanobacterium...

s and even some cacti
Cactus
A cactus is a member of the plant family Cactaceae. Their distinctive appearance is a result of adaptations to conserve water in dry and/or hot environments. In most species, the stem has evolved to become photosynthetic and succulent, while the leaves have evolved into spines...

. Geographically, the aridity can be explained by the following reasons:
  • The desert is located on the leeward side of the Chilean Coast Range
    Chilean Coast Range
    The Chilean Coastal Range is a mountain range that runs from north to south along the Pacific coast of South America parallel to the Andean Mountains, extending from Morro de Arica in the north to Taitao Peninsula, where it ends at the Chile Triple Junction, in the south. The range has a strong...

    , so little moisture from the Pacific Ocean can reach the desert.
  • The Andes
    Andes
    The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

     is so high that it blocks convective clouds, which may bring precipitation, formed above the Amazon Basin from entering the desert from the east.
  • An inversion layer is created by the cold Humboldt current
    Humboldt Current
    The Humboldt Current , also known as the Peru Current, is a cold, low-salinity ocean current that flows north-westward along the west coast of South America from the southern tip of Chile to northern Peru. It is an eastern boundary current flowing in the direction of the equator, and can extend...

     and the South Pacific High.


Noteworthily, an extreme Antarctic cold front broke through the rain shadow
Rain shadow
A rain shadow is a dry area on the lee side of a mountainous area. The mountains block the passage of rain-producing weather systems, casting a "shadow" of dryness behind them. As shown by the diagram to the right, the warm moist air is "pulled" by the prevailing winds over a mountain...

 bringing 80 cm (31.5 in) of snow to the plateau in July 2011, stranding residents across the region, particularly in Bolivia where many drivers became stuck in snow drifts and emergency crews became overtaxed with a large number of rescue calls.

Comparison to Mars

In a region about 100 kilometres (62.1 mi) south of Antofagasta which averages 3000 metres (9,842.5 ft) height, the soil has been compared to that of Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

. Due to its otherworldly appearance, the Atacama has been used as a location for filming Mars scenes, most notably in the television series Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets
Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets
Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets is a mockumentary about a manned voyage through the solar system. Space Odyssey premiered in 2004 and was made by the BBC...

.

In 2003, a team of researchers published a report in the journal Science
Science (journal)
Science is the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the world's top scientific journals....

 titled "Mars-like Soils in the Atacama Desert, Chile, and the Dry Limit of Microbial Life" in which they duplicated the tests used by the Viking 1
Viking 1
Viking 1 was the first of two spacecraft sent to Mars as part of NASA's Viking program. It was the first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars and perform its mission, and until May 19, 2010 held the record for the second longest Mars surface mission of 6 years and 116 days .- Mission :Following...

 and Viking 2
Viking 2
The Viking 2 mission was part of the American Viking program to Mars, and consisted of an orbiter and a lander essentially identical to that of the Viking 1 mission. The Viking 2 lander operated on the surface for 1,281 Mars days and was turned off on 11 April 1980 when its batteries failed...

 Mars landers to detect life and were unable to detect any signs in Atacama Desert soil. The region may be unique on Earth in this regard and is being used by NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 to test instruments for future Mars missions. The team duplicated the Viking tests in Mars-like Earth environments and found that they missed present signs of life in soil samples from Antarctic dry valleys, the Atacama Desert of Chile and Peru, and other locales.
In 2008, the Phoenix Mars Lander detected perchlorate
Perchlorate
Perchlorates are the salts derived from perchloric acid . They occur both naturally and through manufacturing. They have been used as a medicine for more than 50 years to treat thyroid gland disorders. They are used extensively within the pyrotechnics industry, and ammonium perchlorate is also a...

s on the surface of Mars at the same site where water was first discovered. Perchlorates are also found in the Atacama and associated nitrate deposits have contained organics, leading to speculation that signs of life on Mars are not incompatible with perchlorates. The Atacama is also a testing site for the NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

-funded Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program.

Human occupation

The Atacama is sparsely populated, with most cities located along the Pacific coast. In interior areas, oases and some valleys have been populated for millennia, being the seat of the most advanced Pre-Columbian societies found in Chile. These oases have had little population growth and urban development, and have, since the 20th century, faced conflicts over water resources that are needed for the coastal cities and the mining industry.

San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro de Atacama is a Chilean town and commune in El Loa Province, Antofagasta Region. It is located east of Antofagasta, some 106 km southeast of Calama and the Chuquicamata copper mine, overlooking the Licancabur volcano. It features a significant archeological museum, the R. P...

, at about 2000 metres (6,561.7 ft) elevation, is a typical example. Its church was built by the Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 in 1577. In pre-Hispanic times, before the Inca empire, the extremely arid interior was inhabited mainly by the Atacameño
Atacameño
The Atacameños are a Native American people who inhabited the Andean portion of the Atacama Desert, mainly in what is today Chile's Antofagasta Region. Their language is known as Kunza....

 tribe. The tribe is noted for the construction of fortified towns called pucará
Pucará
A pucará is a term that refers to the ruins of the fortifications made by the natives of the central Andean cultures and particularly to those of the Inca...

s
, one of which can be seen a few kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama.

The coastal cities originated in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries during the time of the Spanish Empire
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

, when they emerged as shipping ports for silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 produced in Potosí
Potosí
Potosí is a city and the capital of the department of Potosí in Bolivia. It is one of the highest cities in the world by elevation at a nominal . and it was the location of the Spanish colonial mint, now the National Mint of Bolivia...

 and other mines. During the 19th century the desert came under control of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, and soon became a zone of conflict due to unclear borders and the discovery of sodium nitrate
Sodium nitrate
Sodium nitrate is the chemical compound with the formula NaNO3. This salt, also known as Chile saltpeter or Peru saltpeter to distinguish it from ordinary saltpeter, potassium nitrate, is a white solid which is very soluble in water...

 deposits. After the War of the Pacific
War of the Pacific
The War of the Pacific took place in western South America from 1879 through 1883. Chile fought against Bolivia and Peru. Despite cooperation among the three nations in the war against Spain, disputes soon arose over the mineral-rich Peruvian provinces of Tarapaca, Tacna, and Arica, and the...

, in which Chile annexed most of the desert, cities along the coast developed into international ports, and many Chilean workers migrated there. With the guano and saltpeter booms of the 19th century the population grew immensely, mostly due to immigration from central Chile. In the 20th century the nitrate industry declined and at the same time the largely male population of the desert became increasingly problematic for the Chilean state. Anarchist and communist ideas gained currency among the mine workers, and protest spread throughout the region.

The Atacama desert again became a source of wealth from the 1950s onwards due to copper mining. The Escondida and Chuquicamata
Chuquicamata
Chuquicamata, or "Chuqui" as it is more familiarly known, is by digged volume the biggest open pit copper mine in the world, located in the north of Chile, 215 km northeast of Antofagasta and 1,240 km north of the capital, Santiago...

 porphyry copper mines are located within the Atacama Desert.

Abandoned nitrate mining towns

The desert has rich deposits of copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 and other mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

s, and the world's largest natural supply of sodium nitrate
Sodium nitrate
Sodium nitrate is the chemical compound with the formula NaNO3. This salt, also known as Chile saltpeter or Peru saltpeter to distinguish it from ordinary saltpeter, potassium nitrate, is a white solid which is very soluble in water...

, which was mined on a large scale until the early 1940s. The Atacama border dispute
Atacama border dispute
The Atacama border dispute was a dispute between Chile and Bolivia in the 19th century that ended in the transfer to Chile of all of the Bolivian Coast and the southern tip of Bolivia's ally Peru through the Treaty of Ancón with Peru and the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1904 between Chile and...

 over these resources between Chile and Bolivia began in the 19th century.

Now the desert is littered with approximately 170 abandoned nitrate (or "saltpetre") mining towns, almost all of which were shut down decades after the invention of synthetic nitrate in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 at the turn of the 20th century (see Haber process
Haber process
The Haber process, also called the Haber–Bosch process, is the nitrogen fixation reaction of nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas, over an enriched iron or ruthenium catalyst, which is used to industrially produce ammonia....

). The towns include Chacabuco
Chacabuco
Chacabuco is one of the many abandoned nitrate or "saltpeter" towns in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Other nitrate towns of the Atacama Desert include Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works. Unlike most of the other ghost towns in the Atacama Desert, Chacabuco became a concentration...

, Humberstone, Santa Laura
Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works
Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works are two former saltpeter refineries located in northern Chile. They were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.-Geography:...

, Pedro de Valdivia, Puelma and Maria Elena and Oficina Anita.

Astronomical observatories

Because of its high altitude, nearly non-existent cloud cover, dry air, and lack of light pollution and radio interference from the very widely spaced cities, the desert is one of the best places in the world to conduct astronomical observations. The European Southern Observatory
European Southern Observatory
The European Southern Observatory is an intergovernmental research organisation for astronomy, supported by fifteen countries...

 operates two major observatories
Observatory
An observatory is a location used for observing terrestrial or celestial events. Astronomy, climatology/meteorology, geology, oceanography and volcanology are examples of disciplines for which observatories have been constructed...

 in the Atacama:
  • The La Silla Observatory
    La Silla Observatory
    La Silla Observatory is an astronomical observatory in Chile with three telescopes built and operated by the European Southern Observatory organisation, and several others are partly maintained by ESO...

  • The Paranal Observatory
    Paranal Observatory
    Paranal Observatory is an astronomical observatory located on Cerro Paranal at 2,635 m altitude and operated by the European Southern Observatory. The Very Large Telescope is the largest telescope on Paranal, actually composed of four separate 8.2 m telescopes...

    , which includes the Very Large Telescope
    Very Large Telescope
    The Very Large Telescope is a telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The VLT consists of four individual telescopes, each with a primary mirror 8.2m across, which are generally used separately but can be used together to...



A new radio astronomy
Radio astronomy
Radio astronomy is a subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies. The initial detection of radio waves from an astronomical object was made in the 1930s, when Karl Jansky observed radiation coming from the Milky Way. Subsequent observations have identified a number of...

 telescope, called ALMA
Atacama Large Millimeter Array
The Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array is an array of radio telescopes in the Atacama desert of northern Chile. Since a high and dry site is crucial to millimeter wavelength operations, the array is being constructed on the Chajnantor plateau at 5000 metres altitude...

, built by Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 in the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory officially opened on 3 October 2011. A number of radio astronomy projects, such as the CBI
Cosmic Background Imager
The Cosmic Background Imager was a 13-element interferometer perched at an elevation of 5,080 metres at Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Chilean Andes...

, the ASTE
Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment
The Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment is a 10m antenna built by Mitsubishi Electric as a preprototype for ALMA.The ASTE was deployed to its site on Pampa La Bola, near Cerro Chajnantor and the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in northern Chile. The antenna shows excellent performance...

 and the ACT
Atacama Cosmology Telescope
The Atacama Cosmology Telescope is a six-metre telescope on Cerro Toco in the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile, near the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory. It is designed to make high-resolution, microwave-wavelength surveys of the sky in order to study the cosmic microwave background radiation...

, among others, have been operating in the Chajnantor area since 1999.

Protected areas

  • Pan de Azúcar National Park
    Pan de Azúcar National Park
    Pan de Azúcar National Park is a national park of Chile. The park straddles the border between the Antofagasta Region and the Atacama Region. Its name, Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar, means "sugar loaf".-Geography:...

  • Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve
    Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve
    Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve is a nature reserve of northern Chile's Tarapacá Region located in the Pampa del Tamarugal, about east of Iquique.The reserve consists of three separate sectors: Zapiga, Bosque Nativo de La Tirana, and Pintados...

  • La Chimba National Reserve

See also

  • Norte Grande, Chile
    Norte Grande, Chile
    The Norte Grande is one of the five natural regions into which CORFO divided continental Chile in 1950. It borders Peru to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Altiplano, Bolivia and Argentina to the east, and the Copiapó River to the south, beyond which lies the Norte Chico natural...

  • 2010 Copiapó mining accident
    2010 Copiapó mining accident
    The 2010 Copiapó mining accident, also known as the "Chilean mining accident", began in the afternoon of Thursday, 5 August 2010 as a significant cave-in at the troubled 121-year-old San José copper–gold mine. The mine is located deep in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest and harshest...

  • Atacama border dispute
    Atacama border dispute
    The Atacama border dispute was a dispute between Chile and Bolivia in the 19th century that ended in the transfer to Chile of all of the Bolivian Coast and the southern tip of Bolivia's ally Peru through the Treaty of Ancón with Peru and the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1904 between Chile and...

  • Salar de Atacama
    Salar de Atacama
    Salar de Atacama is the largest salt flat in Chile. It is located south of San Pedro de Atacama, is surrounded by mountains and has no drainage outlets. To the east is enclosed by the main chain of the Andes, while to the west lies a secondary mountain range of the Andes called Cordillera de Domeyko...

  • List of deserts by area
  • Llano de Chajnantor Observatory


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK