ann23038 — Announcement
The US Ambassador to Chile visits AURA’s Facilities at Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón
US Ambassador tours the Víctor M. Blanco telescope, the Gemini South telescope and Vera C. Rubin Observatory, currently under construction
8 December 2023
For the first time since 2017, the US Ambassador to Chile has visited Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, and Cerro Pachón to see first-hand the telescopes devoted to astronomical research in the Coquimbo Region. Accompanied by AURA’s Director in Chile Alejandra Voigt and NOIRLab staff, Ambassador Bernadette Meehan toured several of AURA’s facilities, including part of the International Gemini Observatory, the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter telescope and Vera C. Rubin Observatory, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón.
This visit took place as a part of the celebration of 200 years of official relations between Chile and the US. The work that AURA’s facilities conduct, with backing from the National Science Foundation, is an example of the extensive history of collaboration between the two countries.
At Cerro Pachón Meehan learned about the progress of the Rubin Observatory project and saw the structure of the telescope, which is about to be fitted with the largest digital camera in the world. She was interested in the operation of the instrument and excited by the possible discoveries that it will lead to.
Afterwards, the group toured the Gemini South facilities, which are operated by NOIRLab. Meehan was able to appreciate the telescope’s 8.1-meter primary mirror, which had recently been re-coated with silver, and was left awestruck by the opening of the dome and the smoothness with which the telescope rotates.
Finally, Meehan visited CTIO where she met CTIO Associate Director Stephen Heathcote and NOIRLab astronomer Kathy Vivas. They toured AURA’s very first large telescope in Chile, the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter telescope, and Meehan learned about Blanco’s renovation just over 10 years ago as well as the arrival of the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), which became the largest digital camera built for astronomy in the world when it entered service in 2012 .
Meehan said she was impressed by the work that is carried out at CTIO and Cerro Pachón as well as by the beautiful surroundings.
 Rubin Observatory's LSST Camera, currently being constructed at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California, will be the largest digital camera ever built for astronomy. The camera is roughly the size of a small car, weighing almost 6200 lbs (2800 kg), and will be shipped to Chile in the coming year.
NSF’s NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory), the US center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy, operates the International Gemini Observatory (a facility of NSF, NRC–Canada, ANID–Chile, MCTIC–Brazil, MINCyT–Argentina, and KASI–Republic of Korea), Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), and Vera C. Rubin Observatory (operated in cooperation with the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory). It is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with NSF and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Maunakea in Hawai‘i, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that these sites have to the Tohono O’odham Nation, to the Native Hawaiian community, and to the local communities in Chile, respectively.
- Photos of the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope
- Videos of the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope
- Photos of DECam
- Photos of Gemini South
- Videos of Gemini South
- Photos of Vera C. Rubin Observatory
- Videos of Vera C. Rubin Observatory
Luz María Aguirre
AURA Communications and Institutional Relations Manager
Jr. Public Information Officer