Atacama Has the Most Beautiful Starry Skies in the World

Story by Chile

Posted: June 9, 2013
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Light pollution in large cities means that we have lost the wonder and underestimate the beauty of the night sky. In a list compiled by the Condé Nast Traveler website of 5 natural nocturnal phenomena to see once in your life, the skies of the Atacama Desert are considered the most beautiful in the world.

The area of San Pedro de Atacama is one of the most privileged regions of the world in which to observe the night sky, not only for its almost non-existent light pollution, but also through the absence of clouds. The experience can be enjoyed with the naked eye, just look upwards every night that you are in the village, which is located 1,630 km north of Santiago.

Under optimal conditions, up to 3,000 stars can be distinguished in the night sky. This unique advantage has allowed Chile to position itself as astronomical power. About 40% of global astronomical observation is made in the country. There are 37 centers, of which 18 are scientific and 19 are for touristic and amateur observation. It is expected that by the next decade 70% of observations will be made in Chile.

The most prominent example is the ALMA terrestrial radio telescope, the largest and most expensive project in the world, which is located on the Chajnantor plateau more than 5,000 meters above sea level and 50 kilometers east of San Pedro de Atacama.

In the opposite direction, towards the coast, is the Observatorio Paranal, located at 2,600 meters above sea level and 130 kilometers south of the city of Antofagasta, which is the only observatory in the world that can provide scientists with more than 1,400 clear nights per year, 365 nights multiplied by the four telescopes.