Construction Complete of University of Tokyo’s Observatory in Chile; High Hopes for World’s Highest Astronomical Site

Courtesy of TAO project
The University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory

Construction of the University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory (TAO) in the highlands of Chile, South America, has been completed 26 years after the project’s inception. The observatory, which at an altitude of 5,640 meters is certified by the Guinness World Records as the highest astronomical observatory in the world, is set to start observations next year, with the hope that its findings will reveal the origins of galaxies and planets.

Located at the summit of Mt. Chajnantor in northern Chile, the TAO is equipped with a 6.5-meter aperture infrared telescope, one of the world’s largest telescopes, which can capture infrared radiation emitted by ancient celestial bodies that existed during the early universe. The high-altitude site is advantageous due to its dry air, which is important because water vapor obstructs observation, and high rate of days with clear weather, making it ideal for observations.

The construction project began in 1998. Yuzuru Yoshii, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo and an astrophysics specialist who led the project, said, “Initially, the project was considered a reckless endeavor, but the research we dreamed of is finally becoming a reality.”