How to visit Chile’s La Silla Observatory in July 2019

Want that iconic photograph of a Total Solar Eclipse between two huge observatory domes?

Any astronomer worth their salt is going to want to visit – or at least see from a distance – the giant telescopes of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in the cerro (mountains) of northern Chile’s Atacama desert (though there are others not aligned to the ESO).

However, it’s important to realise not only that they are in one of the driest, highest and most remote areas of the world (so they can take advantage of the darkest night skies on the planet), but also that there are three separate ESO sites in Chile. Only one – La Silla – is in the path of the eclipse.

ESO La Silla Observatory, Cerro La Silla

Google Map

Organise a visit (Saturdays at 14:00)

Virtual tour

An iconic observatory in the Path of Totality? It’s mouth-watering stuff, and the ESO confirmed to me in mid-2017 that it will be staging events, but that further details would be announced closer to the time (so keep an eye on the ESO website).

About 600 km north of Santiago and about 160 km north of La Serena, La Silla Observatory sits at an altitude of 2,400m (7,900 ft) at the southern tip of the Atacama Desert. Operating since the 1960s, its 3.6m Cassegrain telescope hosts HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher), a spectrograph for hunting exoplanets. Tours also include the New Technology Telescope (NTT), a 3.58-metre Richey-Chretien telescope and precursor to the VLT at Paranal. Also on site is the Belgian robotic TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope–South, a modest 0.60m telescope that discovered the TRAPPIST-1 system of seven Earth-like planets.

La Silla Observatory is a two-hour drive north along the Panamericana Norte/Ruta 5 from La Serena, and completely separate from the tourist area of the Elqui Valley.

When is Totality at La Silla Observatory?

July 2, 2019 at 16:39pm (1 minute 48 seconds)

 

 

Photo credit: ESO/A.Santerne