[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