During 2020, when the Pandemic started, a group of astrophysics decided to challenge it and envisaged an outreach project to contribute to the Centro de Observación ‘Flor del Desierto’ at the Complejo Solar Cerro Dominador in the Atacama desert. The Observation Centre brings together solar technology, art and Astronomy and aims at providing the community the possibility to experience the three of them in a unique environment rendered by the outstanding presence of the Cerro Dominador Solar Complex.
The Solar Complex is located in the municipality of María Elena, about 65 km from the city of Calama and 20 km from the town of Sierra Gorda, in the Atacama desert, the area with the highest concentration of solar radiation in the world. It consists of 2 plants: a photovoltaic and a thermosolar. This project is unique in Latin American and an icon for the development of renewable energies.
A group of astronomers joined the project in 2020 to develop an astronomy exhibition at the Observation Center. Our group is formed by astrophysics from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Universidad Diego Portales and Universidad de la Serena: Antonela Monachesi, Facundo Gomez, Ricardo Amorin, Roberto Assef, Paula Jofre, Thomas Maedler, Nelson Padilla and Patricia Tissera.
The Green Astrophysics project designed the exhibition to target a wide audience, so it includes general facts as well as more specific information. The goal is also to foster the imagination of people and particularly, the interest of children for science and technology. The exhibition walks the visitor from our Galaxy to the Sun, our source of energy and life, and to reach the Earth, our habitable planet. The final stage is an amazing view of our Galaxy, painted on the floor by Anima Hop, and the Cerro Dominador tower.
Developing this project was very challenging not only because of the pandemia but also due to the extreme conditions of the Atacama desert. The high temperature, winds, dust and wide range of day-night temperature set strong constraints on the materials to be used and the organisation of the work itself. Even transporting the materials and people from Santiago to Maria Elena, more than 1500 km away, required an extreme well-planned logistics in the time of COVID-19.
We are proud of our contribution to the local community and to Chile!