• June Planetarium Preview: Big Astronomy from Chile

    By 2020, Chile will serve as home to 70 percent of the world’s largest and most advanced astronomical observatories. Astronomers look for high-altitude locations for observatories to reduce the interfering effects caused by Earth’s atmosphere. Chile, with its abundance of mountain ranges, has numerous high-altitude areas perfect for observing the universe. The United States and other countries have recognized this and invested millions of dollars over the years into Chile's astronomy infrastructure.

    Hanrahan at the ALMA array, located at 16,500 feet above sea level.

    Last January, Mt. Hood Community College Planetarium Director Pat Hanrahan joined a group of five astronomy educators from around the United States on a tour of some of the top observatories in Chile. The tour was an annual event through the National Science Foundation-funded Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program. This June, Hanrahan will present images from his trip and share the amazing astronomical work happening in Chile in “Big Astronomy from Chile.”

    Among the locations that Hanrahan visited was the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the largest and most advanced radio telescope array in the world. ALMA is on a desert plateau some 16,500-feet above sea level and has the distinct advantage of being located above half of the Earth’s atmosphere.

    “It was absolutely beautiful at ALMA,” said Hanrahan. “The sky appears a deeper blue, the plants are hardy, and there are even large animals called guanaco, which resemble llamas, living at that altitude.”

    On Tuesday, June 5, and Friday, June 8, join Hanrahan for “Big Astronomy from Chile,” with shows at 6 and 7:15 p.m. on both days. During each show, he will share images from the observatories he visited and delve into some of the astronomical discoveries made in Chile. This is the last regular planetarium show of the season, so don't miss it!

    Visitors are encouraged to ask questions during each 45-minute live program. Children are welcome to attend. The MHCC Planetarium is wheelchair accessible. Admission for the general public is $5, and $2 for children (17 and younger) and for MHCC students (identification required). Seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis.

    An ALMA image of a young solar system forming.