The best observatory in the world is perhaps spread over three locations in northern Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. Each location in the high, arid Atacama Desert provides excellent dark and clear skies for the European Southern Observatory’s array of telescopes. At 2,635 meters altitude, Paranal has the best instruments, with four telescopes of 8.2 meters that together form the Very Large Telescope.
The observatory is now over 50 years old and has been instrumental or instrumental in a number of important astronomical milestones, including the discovery of dark energy, the finding of Proxima b around Proxima Centauri, the observation of stars orbiting the Milky Way , and many more more.
Such an observatory also fulfills another, more human purpose. Away from our light-polluted cities (and even in rural areas in developed countries), the dark skies over the Atacama offer perspective on the tiny Earth corner of the observable universe.
Many of us feel fear as 2016 turns into 2017. The world is full of turmoil, the new president of the United States is very different from his predecessors, and a spate of celebrity deaths reminds us of the fragility of life. Maybe a little perspective will help. So see – there is much, much more to the universe than the petty squabbles here on planet Earth.