Pilot Sites

Antofagasta, Chile



Antofagasta is one of the 16 regional divisions of Chile. It is the second-largest region of the country, covering 126,049 km2 of total area. The population of Antofagasta is 599,335 inhabitants (according to the 2017 census), where 98% of them live in urban areas, mainly in the capital city of Antofagasta, and in Tocopilla, Calama, and Chiquicamata. It is bordered to the north by Tarapacá Region, by Atacama Region to the south and to the east by Bolivia and Argentina. The main activity of the region is copper mining, coming from the region more than 50% of Chile’s copper production, specifically, from Chuquicamata and La Escondida mines. The climate of this region is characterized by being extremely arid, presenting the south-central part of the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. While the summers are warm and dry, the winters are cool and dry. The temperature typically varies from 12 °C to 25 °C.

The largest submm telescope is the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the 5100m high Chajnantor plateau, hosting the ALMA and Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescopes. The Chajnantor plateau is located in the Atacama Desert, in the Region of Antofagasta. The main characteristic of this zone is the dryness, and together with the high elevation of the Chajnantor plateau and surrounding places, makes it a favourable place to submillimeter (and millimeter) observations.

The objective of the present project is a design study for the Atacama Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (AtLAST): a new telescope with a big single dish (~50m) located at a high (~5,000 m), dry site in the Atacama Desert, where the transparent atmosphere enables observations at a proper frequency to capture the emission gas and dust of stars.

In addition to this objective, the project aims to develop a renewable energy system at high elevation in order to make the observatory fully powered by renewable energy. Moreover, to study the possibility of expanding such supply to provide electricity to the adjacent community of San Pedro de Atacama in Antofagasta, Chile, a town not connected to the Chilean power grid due to it remoteness.