SINGAPORE - The study of astronomy and life beyond Earth often takes place in extreme and remote regions, such as the Atacama desert in Chile.
Spanning 105,000 sq km, about 140 times the size of Singapore, the Atacama desert is home to 70 per cent of the world's astronomical research, as well as major observatories such as the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, which consists of 66 radio telescopes constructed on a plateau 5km above sea level.
What makes this dry and arid desert such an ideal location for astronomical research are the low humidity, the almost non-existent cloud cover, and its distance away from large cities which cause light pollution and radio interference.
These, and other aspects of the Chilean astronomy community, will be shared during a four-day seminar titled "Chilean Astronomy: A Window to the Universe". The seminar is a collaboration between the Embassy of Chile and the Science Centre Singapore and runs from Monday (Nov 8) to Thursday.
On the programme are a series of panel talks, film screenings and presentations by speakers from the Chilean astronomy community. The aim: to increase interest and awareness of astronomy among students and other young people.
Chilean Ambassador to Singapore Ignacio Concha said his country's connection to the stars goes back centuries before the advent of modern technology. "Observations of the stars, planets and other celestial bodies occupied an important place in Chile's native pre-Colombian culture," he said. "There is even a movement which seeks to promote ethnic astro-tourism, to help visitors to understand the connection that people in the past had to the stars."
Science Centre chief executive Lim Tit Meng said the event is a chance to learn about the mysteries of outer space through interaction with experts from the Chilean astronomy community.
"It is our hope that through the event, Singaporeans can gain a better appreciation of the beauty of the night sky and the intriguing work that goes behind the field of astronomy," said Associate Professor Lim.
He added it was not surprising that there is little interest in astronomy here given the high levels of light pollution. A 2016 study by researchers from the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute in Italy found that Singapore was the country with the highest level of light pollution.
Light pollution will be discussed in a presentation from the Globe at Night campaign on Tuesday. The campaign by citizen scientists aims to raise awareness of the impact of light pollution on the environment, wildlife and health.
A round table on the final day of the seminar will focus on promoting careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) among women and inclusivity at the workplace.
The all-female team of panellists will share their experiences as well as initiatives that have been adopted to foster an inclusive, equal and diverse workplace in the field of astronomy, said Prof Lim. "This is especially relevant in a multiracial nation like ours," he said.
Mr Concha added: "Chile's natural laboratory to observe the universe is a matter where the interests of both scientific communities can converge."
- The seminar is open to fully vaccinated individuals aged 12 years and older to attend in person at the Omni Theatre in Science Centre Singapore and each ticket costs $3. The seminar can also be viewed via live stream at this website.
- More information can be found at this website or on the Facebook page of the Science Centre Observatory.