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Chile signs agreement to install the largest set of gamma-ray telescopes on the planet

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Government of Chile and the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) today signed an agreement that will allow the installation of the Cherenkov Telescope Array Sur (CTA-Sur) project on the grounds of the Paranal Observatory, located in the Antofagasta Region. The agreement was signed by the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Carolina Valdivia, and the Director General of ESO, Xavier Barcons.

The initiative, considered the largest of its kind in the world, contemplates the installation of 99 gamma-ray telescopes, within a radius of 10 km, in the flat areas east of route B-710, which will be added to 19 other telescopes that will be in La Palma, Spain (CTA-North). They are expected to be operational in 2025. They will have three different diameters (4, 12 and 23 metres).

The Undersecretary explained that CTA-Sur "is a scientific project to detect very high energy gamma rays from cosmic sources. It has been promoted by a consortium of more than 1,000 scientists from 31 countries, including 49 working in 7 Chilean universities.

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"We are deeply proud that our country has been chosen as the most appropriate place for the installation of this new scientific project," the Under Secretary said at the ceremony. "The north of Chile is a Natural Laboratory unique in the world for its conditions of clean, dark and dry skies for the installation of sophisticated astronomical projects," she added.

The agreement includes a protocol between CONICYT and its counterpart (the CTAO Consortium), which guarantees 10% of the observation time for Chilean projects and a fund to promote joint research on scientific issues related to CTA. In addition, ESO is committed to incorporate this project into the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), which will also consider that Chilean companies can be part of the bids required for its construction.

This agreement strengthens Chile's ties with ESO, which date back more than half a century. Today, almost all of Europe's astronomical observation facilities are in Chile, which joins a wide network of international astronomical projects, which will allow our country to concentrate nearly 75% of the world's astronomical infrastructure by 2025.

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The Undersecretary added that this agreement "confirms to us the vision that Chile has become a world astronomical platform, hosting almost 50% of the largest astronomical observation facilities on the planet in our territory, and moving towards 75% by the beginning of the next decade, with the beginning of the construction of the Cherenkov Telescope Array, which will highlight this reality".

"We wish the national and international institutions involved the greatest success, together with committing all the support of our Government through the signing of this important agreement," concluded the authority.

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