It’s not just the sky that’s of interest to science. NASA has also used the sandy, rocky terrain to test Mars rovers being prepped for space travel.
Where and How To Watch the Skies
In addition to observatories offering day tours, most hotels and tourism companies in San Pedro de Atacama offer year-round stargazing tours and excursions led by local astronomy experts with top notch equipment or access to smaller, tourism-oriented observatories.
One of the best ways to marvel at and learn about the Atacama’s night skies is over an outdoor dinner with a local astronomy expert, who offers an accompanying lecture during dinner and points out planets, constellations, and other celestial objects.
Things to consider
- Before planning a trip to the Atacama for stargazing, be sure to check this year’s lunar calendar, in case there are any astronomical events you’d like to observe, like meteor showers or eclipses.
- Don't go stargazing during a full moon! At peak fullness, the brightness of a full moon over a desert landscape is a hauntingly beautiful image, but washes out the night sky.
- Invest in a star chart or stargazing apps to find constellations and planets. If you’re attending a tour, the guide will be able to point these out for you, but it’s also fun to try and figure out the night sky on your own!