The total eclipses that will take place in Chile on July 2, 2019 and December 14, 2020, give Chileans an extraordinary opportunity to talk about the sun, astronomy, science and also make the world turn its eyes to this distant country that in 2025 will have installed 70% of the astronomical observation capacity of the planet. Chile has become the window from which the world looks at the cosmos.
The geographical characteristics of northern Chile are extraordinary for astronomy. The Humboldt current through the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains in the east, protect these lands from clouds and humidity and offer more than 300 clear nights a year. But, beyond these privileged conditions with which the Chilean skies count, a long-term vision emerges that has guided our public policies in this area, facilitating the installation of international consortiums from which the astronomical research that has allowed us is carried out. to understand – each time in greater depth – our place in the universe. These state policies, constant for 60 years, include the provision of roads, energy, light protection and security that benefit observatories and global research.
This scenario imposes a series of challenges as a country to safeguard and update conditions that continue to favor frontier scientific activity. Examples of this are the Working Group for the Modernization of the Light Pollution norm or the Astronomical Park of Atacama that came into operation in 2013 and that protects more than 36,000 hectares for the development and installation of future astronomical projects.
The policies for the arrival of new astronomical projects to the country include not only the delivery of observation time for the national scientific community, but also the collaboration for the training of specialized human resources. This is how the development of areas such as engineering and big-data is being encouraged, taking into account that the management of large amounts of data, promoted in Chile by observatories such as LSST, will be tools to tackle the great challenges of the future .
The scientific development requires an adequate institutionality that promotes and projects it, but above all that it conceives science at the service of the country.
With a Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation joining the Chilean State, the next two years of eclipses will be an unparalleled opportunity to generate dialogues and highlight actions that aim at the development of the country through astronomy, astrotourism, and capabilities. technologies associated with the installation and management of large observatories. The eclipse season allows us to use astronomy as a gateway to science, it is a celestial phenomenon that enables the promotion of critical and creative thinking among the new generations, an indispensable task to contribute to a society that anticipates and values the evidence to the time to make decisions.
When we let ourselves be amazed by nature and we turn to science to understand it, then conversations are opened with unimaginable projections that impact the lives of people. Conversations about development, but also about the future. A future where sustainable development is no longer optional, but an imperative. Therefore, incorporating science and technological development into the political and citizen discussion is also.
Andrés Couve Correa is Minister of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation of Chile