AAS 201st Meeting, January, 2003
Session 53. K-12 Astronomy Education and Public Outreach
Poster, Tuesday, January 7, 2003, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall AB

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[53.15] Protection of Existing and Potential Astronomical Sites in Chile - an Update.

M.G. Smith (Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory), P. Sanhueza (OPCC, Chile), D. Norman, H. Schwarz (CTIO), D. Orellana (Universidad de La Serena)

The IAU's Working Group on Controlling Light Pollution (iauwg) has declared Mauna Kea and a wide strip of Northern Chile between Antofagasta and Chajnanator as top priorities for its efforts to protect existing and potential sites in the Northern and Southern hemispheres respectively.

This report provides an update on the iauwg's co-ordinated efforts to protect areas around the major international optical observatories in Chile, as well as the "Chilean Special Zone" (CSZ) mentioned above. This zone is of current and potential interest for the installation of extremely large optical telescopes and includes the ALMA radio-astronomy site.

The CSZ is potentially vulnerable to adverse effects of mining in the region. Progess has been made in demonstrating to local mining interests within the CSZ the economic advantages of quality lighting.

Educational and outreach activities to a variety of target audiences are building on legislation covering dark skies - itself part of work by the Chilean government to protect the natural heritage of Chile. Substantial good will was generated by an international, bilingual conference held last March in Chile. Just in the region around AURA's Observatory in Chile (Gemini South, CTIO and SOAR), a portable planetarium has been used to reach out to over 600 teachers and 65,000 pupils in the RedLaSer schools network within the last three years. This has attracted the direct interest of Chile's Ministry of Education. Videoconferencing over Internet2 is being used for educational purposes between Chile and various sites in the US. The NSF- initiated Mamalluca municipal observatory now receives more visitors than all the international observatories in Chile combined and is the focus of an expanding local industry of astronomical eco-tourism.

Most of this work was supported by funding from, or via, the US NSF through CTIO and Gemini, and from ESO, OCIW, CONAMA and the IDA.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: msmith@ctio.noao.edu

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