Because of its clear skies, the hills of the Andes Mountains and especially the Atacama Desert are among the best places worldwide to install an astronomical observatory. It is therefore not surprising that Chile is host to several of the most cutting-edge and largest observatories in the world. The European Southern Observatory (ESO), funded by 14 European countries and the most important astronomical research institution in Europe, runs one of them.
Heidelberg University develops a wide range of activities in the field of astronomy. For many of its astronomers, observations with telescopes in Chile are essential for their work. The observatory Landessternwarte Heidelberg at the Zentrum für Astronomie (ZAH) manufactures instruments used in Chile.
As partners in research and education Heidelberg University cooperates in the field of Astronomy with the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (PUC). Both institutions belong to the leading groups in astronomical research and training of early career researchers. Given their “host” status, Chilean astronomers have 10% of the observation time on all international telescopes located in the country. Therefore, over the past years, a number of Chilean universities have considerably expanded their activities in astronomy, which has become one of the priority areas of science in Chile.
The objectives of the cooperation between the Heidelberg University and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile are the recruitment and training of especially talented doctoral students, as well as the joint realization of scientific and technological projects at the highest level. Additionally, the astronomy program relies on the cooperation with the Haus der Astronomie in Heidelberg. Its qualification and knowledge-transfer activities focus on the development of teaching material and on specific events, such as workshops for teachers.
Each year, the Haus der Astronomie grants scholarships to a limited number of Chilean school teachers for a two-week training in Heidelberg.