Saturday, April 5, 2014

ESO ALMA: Chile Earthquake Leaves Astronomy Observatories Unscathed

The epicenter for the 8.2 earthquake that rocked Chile on Tuesday was approximately 310 miles (500 km) from the Very Large Telescope and ALMA.

Credit: ESO

The massive earthquake that struck Chile on Tuesday (April 1) left three main European-built observatories in the region relatively untouched despite causing damage and a tsunami along the country's western coast.

The powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck about 60 miles (95 kilometers) northwest of the coastal city Iquique, causing several landslides and triggering a tsunami that rose some 7 feet (2.1 meters).

The earthquake struck at 8:46 p.m. local time (7:46 EDT).

A powerful 7.6-magnitude aftershock rattled the area late Wednesday night (April 2).

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) operates three major observatories in Chile, each with multiple telescopes: the Paranal Observatory, which is home to Europe's Very Large Telescope; the La Silla Observatory, which hosts various telescopes, such as the 2.2-m Max-Planck telescope, 1.2-m Swiss Leonhard Euler Telescope and the 1.5-m Danish Telescope; and ALMA and APEX, or the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment. (Also in the Chajnantor region is Caltech's Chajnantor Observatory.)

The epicenter was located approximately 310 miles (500 km) from both the ALMA/APEX and Paranal sites.

"The quake was felt at the ALMA camp as a prolonged swaying, which lasted for about 2 minutes," the ALMA Observatory said in a statement.

However, none of the ESO facilities reported any damage.

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