Chile joins the CTA project to build a large astronomical complex in the Southern Hemisphere

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The Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) is an ambitious international scientific project that seeks to build a set of 100 telescopes for the study of the universe in very high energy gamma rays. These rays bring information about the most extreme phenomena that occur in the Universe.

The CTA scientific complex contemplates the construction of 100 telescopes of 6, 12 and 24 meters in diameter. One of the alternatives to locate the project is the Antofagasta region.

In a meeting held in Turku, Finland, the incorporation of Chile to the CTA Consortium was confirmed. The project will build a complex of 100 telescopes of 6, 12 and 24 meters in diameter on a field of several kilometers that will be used to detect gamma rays that contain information about different phenomena of the cosmos.

The first stage of the CTA project will take place in the Southern Hemisphere to have a clearer and more direct view of the central region of the Milky Way. The plains near the VLT telescope (Cerro Paranal), in the Antofagasta Region, is one of the options for locating the telescopes. The other is in Namibia, where there is already a telescope with similar characteristics, but on a smaller scale. The clarity of the atmosphere and the existence of numerous observatories in the north of Chile are the advantages that our country offers for the installation of the complex.

Regarding the strengths and opportunities that Chile offers for the installation of this complex, versus the reality of Namibia, the academic from the UC Astrophysics Institute Andreas Reisenegger, who is part of the research team, commented that “on the one hand, Chile has much more infrastructure, for example in terms of roads and telecommunications. On the other hand, it has a long history of hosting successful observatories, among them, ESO at Cerro Paranal. It is planned to install CTA in the lands adjacent to this observatory, so that, to a large extent, it will be able to share its infrastructure and logistics. Finally, Chile also has important human resources, both in the areas that CTA studies, such as particle physics and astrophysics, as well as in the various engineering areas required to build and operate the observatory”, he indicated.

For the scientific and technological community, the incorporation of Chile to the CTA represents a great opportunity for research in different disciplines. In addition to astronomers, physicists who study high energies and who have knowledge of instrumentation and experimentation -thanks to their participation in CERN’s LHC accelerator in Geneva- will be able to use this observatory to study particle physics. Engineering can also contribute to the modeling and design of telescopes resistant to earthquakes and winds, the study of soils and the transmission and processing of large amounts of data.

More than a thousand scientists from 29 different countries are already participating in the project, especially from Europe. At the Latin American level, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and now Chile are present, with scientists and researchers from eight institutions: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Santiago), Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (Valparaíso), Universidad Católica del Norte (Antofagasta), Universidad de Valparaíso (Valparaíso), Universidad de Concepción (Concepción), Center for Scientific Studies (Valdivia), Universidad de Chile (Santiago) and Universidad Andrés Bello (Santiago).

Study areas

The CTA telescope complex will be able to observe various high-energy phenomena associated with the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, supernova remnants, pulsars, and the possible annihilation or decay of “dark matter”, which generate gamma rays. The telescopes will detect the blue light produced by the Cherenkov effect (charged particles interacting with those in the atmosphere). The complex will be superior to other similar complexes currently operating: HESS in Namibia, MAGIC in Spain and VERITAS in the United States.

As explained on the CTA official website (, the objectives of the project are grouped into three main lines: Understand the origin of cosmic rays and their role in the universe; understand the nature and variety of particle acceleration around black holes; and look for the ultimate nature of matter and physics, beyond the Standard Model.