Research Projects

The Department of Astronomy (DAS) at the Universidad de Chile is leading cutting-edge research in our country,. It contributed more than 500 original research articles published in international refereed journals during the last decade.

Research activities have been funded by FONDECYT projects and numerous Presidential Professorship in Science. A standing-out example is the contribution of the Calán-Tololo search for supernovae to the subsequent discovery of the accelerated expansion of the Universe during the nineties. Teams involved in the discovery were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2011.

The current main research projects are:

Center for Excellence in Astrophysics and Associated Technologies (CATA)

The Center for Excellence in Astrophysics and Associated Technologies (CATA) is the largest Chilean project of research and development in astronomy technologies. It is located in Calán Hill (Cerro Calán), Santiago, Chile.

The Center for Excellence in Astrophysics and Associated Technologies (CATA) brings together 35 researchers and 21 postdoctoral fellows (young researchers). The team members come from three of the finest research universities in Chile: Universidad de Chile, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Universidad de Concepción.

The Director of CATA is Mrs. María Teresa Ruiz, Chilean National Science Prize and Ph.D in Astronomy at Princeton University; the Sub-Director is Mr. Guido Garay, Ph.D. in astronomy at Harvard University, both are teachers in the Universidad de Chile Department of Astronomy.

CATA develops ten different areas: 6 focused in scientific research, 3 focused on technology advances, and 1 in Education & Outreach (to students, teachers and general public).

CATA began operating in April 2008 and is supported by “Programa de Financiamiento Basal para Centros Científicos y Tecnológicos de Excelencia” an initiative of “Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica” (CONICYT). Official website

Millennium Center for Supernova Science (MCSS)

The Millennium Center for Supernova Science (MCSS) was founded in 2008 with the support of the Millennium Science Initiative (ICM), the Ministry of Planning (Mideplan) which is currently under the Ministry of Economics (since 2011).

Three astronomers started this initiative, two of which were from the Universidad de Chile and the other from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Soon after the start of the project, a series of professionals, which included post-doctoral researchers, graduate students, and certified experts from both universities, joined the group. Due to the interest of the scientific community MCSS has grown substantially since 2008. Today MCSS is composed of 20 members from the Universidad de Chile, four from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and two from the Universidad Nacional Andrés Bello. Official website

Millenium Nucleus for Protoplanetary Disk Research with ALMA

Understanding how planets form in the hands of the revolutionary ALMA telescope (Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array) is the main objective of the new “Protoplanetary Disks with ALMA Early Science” Millenium Nucleus, led by Prof. Simon Casassus., astronomer at the Department of Astronomy (DAS) at the Universidad de Chile.

This Nucleus, which is funded by the Millennium Scientific Initiative (ICM) of the Ministry of Economy of Chile, also includes the participation of Matthias Schreiber (alternate researcher at the Universidad de Valparaíso), Antonio Hales (ALMA co-researcher), and Francois Menard (co-researcher at UMI-CNRS and Universidad de Chile). Official website

Anillo de Cosmología

This initiative is in the charge of professors Luis Campusano, Ricardo Muñoz and José Maza from our Department of Astronomy (DAS); in collaboration with professors Gonzalo Palma and Nelson Zamorano from the Department of Physics (DFI) of the Universidad de Chile; and professor Nancy Hitschfeld-Kahler from the Department of Computer Sciences (DCC).

The project proposes the formation of an interdisciplinary scientific collaboration dedicated to the coordinated development of both observational and theoretical cosmology. It consists in a comprehensive study of cosmological inhomogeneities leading to the anisotropies observed in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and then to the formation of large-scale structures in the distribution of galaxies.

The proposal seeks to develop cutting-edge research in cosmology and astrophysics, strengthen bonds of international collaboration, especially with the Department of Physics at Princeton University (USA), and provide advanced training to graduate students through joint interdisciplinary activities involving physics and astronomy.

The initiative also seeks to have an active participation in the Atacama Bmode experiment (ABS), a scientific project that aims to detect a polarization in the CMB radiation that would prove the presence of gravitational waves in the early universe. Official website

Milimeter-wave laboratory (ML)

The Milimeter-wave laboratory (ML) designs, builds and tests receivers for use in radioastronomy with a focus on academic activities and technological research. We are an heterogeneous group of astronomers, engineers, technicians and students, with a joint experience that covers decametric down to sub-millimeter techniques.

The Laboratory was born after the transfer of the equipment from the Maipú Radio Observatory in the year 2000 and the relocation/upgrade of the MINI (1.2m mm-wave radio telescope) from Cerro Tololo to Cerro Calán.

Today, we are involved in several projects related to mm-wave receivers in collaboration with a number of groups abroad. Together with the Department of Electrical Engineering (DIE), which runs a photonics laboratory, we have formed the Astronomical Instrumentation Group. Official website

Unidad Mixta Internacional UMI – FCA

The UMI-FCA (for Unidad Mixta Internacional Franco–Chilena de Astronomía) joint international unit is a partnership between the French National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) and our university, along with the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Universidad de Concepción.

This project will allow astronomers from both countries to conduct research together, and our experts to apply for French grant funds.

The UMI-FCA has permanent staff, material and financial means provided by the two parties to carry out research in several areas: black holes in the central region of the galaxy, the origins of jets in massive protostars, interstellar medium, characterization of planetary atmospheres dust in low metallicity galaxies and protoplanetary disks.