Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chilean President attend the Signing Ceremony of China-Chile Collaborations to develop Astronomical Observatories in Chile


On November 22nd, in Santiago, the capital of Chile, at the witness of Chinese President Xi JinPing and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Prof. Jun Yan, Director General of National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), and Mr. Jorge Tabilo Álvarez, President of the Catholic University of the North (UCN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to jointly develop an Astronomical Observational base in Chile.


Due to its outstanding astronomical climate, and the steady support of its government, Chile is a key site for international astronomy research. Over the last few decades, several foreign interests, such as the U.S.A., Japan, and the E.U., have developed observational facilities in the country. The Ventarrones site (VTRS), which belongs to the Catholic University of the North, has been subject to detailed investigation and comparison by the Chinese Academy of Sciences South America Center for Astronomy (CASSACA) and is considered as an excellent site for astronomic observations. The site is located in the famous Atacama Desert, about 1200 KMs north from Santiago, and is at an altitude of 2900 meters.


The VTRS site was previously selected as a candidate site for the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) 39 meter European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT, in construction), and its sky quality and conditions have been evaluated and positively confirmed by world-class institutions. In order to promote scientific developments in the field of observational astronomy and related sciences and technology, and to strengthen the collaboration and communication of scientists, engineers, and students between the two countries, NAOC and UCN have agreed to form a bilateral partnership to develop the VTRS site into a world-class scientific research base for observational astronomy. The site is also expected to play an important role in the scientific outreach and education.


This event marks the second time these parties have signed a MOU witnessed by both their respective heads of state, the first being the attendance of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and the Chilean President in the signing ceremony of China-Chile Joint Astronomical Data Center in 2015. The MOU is also a highlight of and a major milestone in CASSACA’s past three years of work, after its foundation in Chile since 2013. Dr. Jun Yan,the Director General of NAOC, specifically pointed out that developing an observational base in Chile is a strategic step that has been carefully considered by the scientific community, based on the long-term plan for China’s development in the field of astronomy. The official signing of the MOU and its gradual implementation will enable China for the first time to have a world-class site overseas by means of joint development. This will be of great significance to the development of astronomical observation and techniques in China, and it will further promote cooperation and communications between China and Chile in the field.


The news that NAOC and UCN will collaborate to develop astronomical observatories in Chile has attracted strong interest in the local community and media. The idea of constructing future observatories in this kind of collaborative way is supported by the Chilean government and local astronomers, who are optimistic in regards to the future development of the project. One major media outlet in Santiago prepared a special report on the signing of the agreement, pointing out that this is a milestone in China’s development of astronomical observations in South America. Dr. Cameron, the director of ESO (Chile), commented in a congratulatory letter that this collaborative approach is an “excellent choice” for China. He also expressed willingness to provide assistance for the future development of the VTRS site.


CAS Vice President Tieniu Tan Visits Chile

Dr. Tieniu Tan, Vice President of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), visited Chile from May 6th to 8th, 2016, as invited by the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the University of Chile and the Chinese Academy of Sciences South America Center for Astronomy (CASSACA). Dr. Xiaoyu Hong (Director General of Shanghai Astronomical Observatories, CAS), Xiaoou Chen (Commissioner of Science and Technology, Chinese Embassy in Chile), Zhong Wang (Director of CASSACA), Wei Wang (Deputy Director of CASSACA) and Dr. Meng Su (MIT) accompanied his visit.


In the morning of May 6th, Dr. Tan met the new CONICYT director Dr. Mario Hummuy and Chilean Senator Dr. Guido Girardi. They discussed potential collaborations between the two countries in astronomy and other aspects of science and technology. Afterwards, Dr. Tan visited the China-Chile Astronomical Data Center (CCADC) and offered his suggestions for its long-term development. CCADC is the first major collaborative project led by CASSACA. Its aim is to enable Chinese and Chilean astronomers to better process astronomical data obtained from large telescopes.


In the afternoon, Dr. Tan visited the Department of Astronomy at the University of Chile. There, he expressed gratitude to director Dr. Guido Garay for the department’s help in the development of CASSACA and discussed future plans for the Center. Dr. Tan then visited the CASSACA office and was introduced to its staff and researchers. Dr. Tan applauded the significant achievements of CASSACA during the past three years, and he encouraged the staff in their efforts to build international scientific cooperation, to drive cutting edge astronomical research, and to develop the Center as a platform for China-Chile collaborations in astronomy and other areas of research. In addition, Dr. Tan met the Chinese Ambassador in Chile, Mr. Baorong Li, and the President of the Chilean Academy of Sciences, Madam Maria Teresa Ruiz, and exchanged ideas with them regarding China-Chile collaborations and CASSACA.


On May 7th and 8th, Vice President Tan went to northern Chile to visit the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA), which is assembled on a 5,060 meter-high plateau, as well as three telescopes dedicated to Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) research. These were the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT), the Cosmology Large Angular Scale Surveyor (CLASS), and the POLARBEAR telescopes, all of which are assembled on a 5,200 site nearby. Together, these facilities represent the state-of-the-art science and technology in radio astronomy and are the results of a wide-range of international collaborations. Dr. Tan’s visit is among the first that CAS leaders made to the 5,000+ meter sites in Chile.


ALMA is an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes built collaboratively by several institutions from Europe, the United States and East Asia. It consists of 66 12-meter and 7-meter diameter radio telescopes, observing at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, with a resolution of up to 0.01 arcsec. ALMA is expected to be able to provide insights on star birth during the early universe and detailed imaging of local star and planet formation. ALMA is located in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile, on the Chajnantor plateau. The location is one of the driest sites in the world and very suitable for mm and submm observations. After about 15 years of construction, costing US$1.4 billion, ALMA began full operation in March 2013. The observatory has since attracted close attention from astronomers from all nations and led to various new scientific discoveries.



CAS Vice President Tieniu Tan Visits Chile

CASSACA Council Meeting held in Beijing

On December 18, 2015the Council Meeting of the Chinese Academy of Sciences South America Center for Astronomy (CASSACA) was held in  National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC). Prof. Zhongli Ding, Vice President of CAS & Director of the Council, attended the meeting and gave important suggestions and guidance to CASSACA. There are more than 30 attendees coming from CAS administration divisions, the institutes in CAS Observatory system and Universities. 

Prof. Zhong Wang, Director of CASSACA, reported the overall progress and achievements of the Center obtained in 2015. Prof. Jiasheng Huang, Chief Scientist of CASSACA, specially introduced the progress in research and scientific programs in the past. Then the Council gave full affirmation on the achievements and progress by the Center. The Council gave practical guidance and suggestions to the Center’s development and future plans. Two new members were approved to join the Council.  

CASSACA has achieved remarkable results and progress in the past, over its collaborations with Chilean institutions and scientists, on the scientific researches, programs and projects. Especially, the CASSACA set up the China-Chile astronomical data center with cooperation with Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria of Chile and Huawei company of China. Prime Minister Keqiang Li and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet witnessed the signing ceremony of the data center in May 2015. The system run stably and went into the stage of software debugging and commissioning since November 2015. 

CASSACA was set up in 2013 and has been playing an important role on the international collaborations in Astronomy between China and Chile together with other South America countries. 


Major Chinese media visit ALMA and ESO Paranal observatories

[Preface: Since its inauguration in 2013, the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ South America Center for Astronomy (CASSACA) initialized several research collaborations between China and Chile, attracting broad interests of the national and international media, and from the general public. Especially after both Premier Li Keqiang’s and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet attended a signing ceremony of the agreement on building the China-Chile Joint Astronomical Data Center on May 25, 2015, the topics of astronomy in Chile has drawn even more attention. Recently, we made arrangements for journalists from several major Chinese news media to visit two international observatories in northern Chile, for an in-depth look at astronomical research activities in the Southern Hemisphere. ]

Journalists from local stations of the Xinhua News Agency, People’s Daily newspaper, and China Radio International visited ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array) and ESO (European Southern Observatories) Paranal, two of the largest international observatories in northern Chile, on 16-18 July 2015. During the visits and through interviews of on-site astronomers and employees, they had witnessed frontier research activities at the first-class international observatories, and gathered a lot of valuable first-hand information. CASSACA Director Wang Zhong and Deputy Director Wang Wei accompanied the visits and participated in the outreach activities.

The media group first went to ALMA Observatory on the 17th, where they visited the telescope control room, laboratory, working and living areas, and interviewed the person in charge of the station as well as front-line staff, who demonstrated the huge truck made specifically for transporting the antennas. Then they arrived at the antenna array on the 5000-meter-high plateau, equipped with supplies of oxygen, after given a medical check-up in accordance with the provisions for high-altitude environment. The large-scale modern scientific facilities, along with the magnificent natural scenery, highlight the importance of astronomical research, and illustrate the great contributions of scientists and other staff. On 18th July, at 2600m-high Paranal Observatory, the media visited the giant optical and infrared VLT 8-meter telescopes. The journalists learned about the parameters of telescopes and instruments, and the ongoing research programs carried out by the observers. They also had the opportunity to watch the entire procedure of telescope dome opening, instrument testing and preparing for observations. The dedication and professionalism of the staff, along with the advanced site management and operations, impressed them, just like the excellent sky conditions at the observatory. In the telescope control room, reporters had a light-hearted interview with Dr. Yang Bin, formerly of the National Astronomical Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, who was on-duty as a night astronomer working for ESO. The professionalism, passion for astronomical observations, perseverance and dedication of this young female astronomer won their admiration.  Continue reading

CASSACA to co-sponsor a conference on “The Soul of High-mass star formation”

CASSACA is co-sponsoring a conference on “The Soul of High-mass star formation”, which is to be held on March 15-20, in Puetro Varas, a beautiful port city in South Chile.

During the last decade many large-scale surveys (e.g. GLIMPSE, ATLASGAL) led to the identification of massive star formation regions in their earliest stages in our Galaxy. These have been observed with new instruments, in particular massive Herschel data has been taken to characterize physically and chemically the most embedded sources on moderate to large spatial scales. Today, when ALMA will soon begin full operations opening new windows in frequency, chemistry, spatial resolution, and sensitivity, it is timely to discuss our current understanding and open questions on massive star formation.

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