Killer Quake Leaves Chilean Telescopes Undamaged

The European Southern Observatory, which is headquartered in Germany but has a number of telescopes in Chile, has voiced its support for the families of victims of Saturday's devastating earthquake while announcing that none of its instruments has been damaged. There were no casualties among ESO staff. "Everyone's fine," says spokesperson Henri Boffin at the ESO headquarters in Garching.

ESO's three Chilean sites at La Silla, Paranal, and Chajnantor are all in the north of the country, far from the quake's epicenter near Concepcion. And ESO’s instruments, including the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the partly built Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), are engineered to withstand earthquakes. The La Silla Paranal Observatory, which is the furthest south, did experience a power cut that stopped observations and the ESO office in the capital, Santiago, did sustain a "tiny amount of damage," Boffin says. ESO is urging astronomers who are due to travel to Chile for observations to postpone their flights because of disruption at Santiago airport and instead to apply to carry out remote observing. VLT at Paranal has the ability to be controlled at a distance via the Internet.