Department of Astronomy


The Department of Astronomy came into being in 1965. The arrival of other international observatories within the country prompted the creation of a degree program in astronomy, which prepared specialized scientists within the area of study.

Since that time, the department has had its installations in Cerro Calán, in Las Condes neighborhood, where the Observatorio Astronómico Nacional (OAN) also operates. It was founded in 1852 and held as a part of the Universidad de Chile since 1927. A large number of the instruments that shaped the department were part of the OAN, among them, two antique telescopes: the German "Heyde" refractor and the French "Gautier".

Thanks to a Japanese donation in 2002, the DAS relies on a modern Cassegrain telescope that serves in educating undergraduate and graduate students as well as aiding in scientific diffusion of astronomy through guided visits from institutional and private entities.

Presently, the department also runs an image-processing center where researchers carry out the reduction and analysis of data through the use of an online office network.

The network was initially financed with funds from the Andes Foundation (Fundación Andes) and the United Nations Development Program (Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo, PNUD).

Staff in Charge
Chair Dr. Patricio Rojo
Vice chair Dr. James Jenkins
Postgraduate Coordinator Dr. James Jenkins
Head Professor Dra. Paulina Lira
Dr. Ricardo Finger
Outreach coordinator Dr. Walter Max-Moerbeck


Since its beginnings, the department has been known for its academic excellence, educating top-notch scientists in undergraduate and graduate areas of study. The department has outstanding professors and researchers, mutual agreements with prestigious international astronomy centers, modern installations and important research work.
The department consists of the following programs:

  • Bachelor of Astronomy: one of the program options from the Common Plan of the Physical Sciences and Mathematics Faculty - (Plan Común de la Facultad de Ciencias Físicas y Matemáticas). It is in fact the only astronomy program in Chile accredited by the National Commission of Accreditation until the year 2016.
  • Master of Science in Astronomy: with the objective to prepare students with formal knowledge and research experience in astronomy, either for further graduate level studies or to participate in a broader professional environment.
  • PhD of Science in Astronomy: the program offers the necessary tools for students to make original contributions towards the advancement of astronomical global knowledge.


DAS astronomers work in a wide variety of research and project areas, not only for the comprehension of the science, bus also towards the development of related technologies. The following are some of the most important research initiatives:

  • Center of Astrophysics and Related Technologies (Centro de Astrofísica y Tecnologías Afines (CATA): the largest national entity dedicated to research and development of astronomy related technologies. The center is located in Cerro Calán and is made up of 35 researchers and 21 postdoctoral students from the Universidad de Chile, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and the Universidad de Concepción. CATA has six lines of scientific research, three of which are technological. In addition, the center participates in activities of dissemination and education.
  • The Millennium Nucleus Supernova Studies (Núcleo Milenio de Estudios de Supernovas) - in Spanish): this scientific team emerged in 2008, thanks to the support of the Millenium Scientific Initiative (ICM), of the Ministry of Social Development. The team is composed by 20 members of the Universidad de Chile and 3 from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
  • Astrophysics Center: one of the centers of excellence of the "Priority Areas Advanced Research Program Fund (Programa Fondo de Investigación Avanzado en Aéreas Prioritarias), which began its operations in 2002.
  • Calán-Tololo Project: an astronomical supernova research study carried out in Chile between the years 1989 and 1996. It was developed by the DAS and the Inter-American Observatory of Cerro Tololo (Observatorio Interamericano de Cerro Tololo), located in the Coquimbo region and administered by the Association of Universities for Astronomy Research (Asociación de Universidades para la investigación de la Astronomía, AURA). The project significantly contributed to the measurement of distances within the universe, and to the 1998 discovery of universal expansion acceleration.
  • Milimetric Wave Laboratory - (ML) (Laboratorio de Ondas Milimétricas (ML): designs, constructs and tests receptors for use in radio astronomy with a focus on academic activities and technological research.
  • Millenium Core "Protoplanetary Disks in ALMA Early Science": its principal objective is to understand how planets are formed utilizing the revolutionary ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array) telescope.

Extension and Outreach

An important aspect of the Department of Astronomy's labor is the development of various educational and scientific diffusion activities by the academic staff and the students, focused to the entire community.

  • Astronomical Observatory Cerro Calán: among its activities are weekly evening visits by the general public as well as astronomy courses specially geared towards teens and children.
  • Guided tours: consist of daily visits exclusively for grade schools that include a demonstration of the department's main telescopes, with a talk on basic astronomy concepts.
  • Astronomy courses: directed to the general public with the goal of bringing the science within reach of the community.
  • Educational Astronomy: the DAS maintains a website to promote astronomical knowledge and bring it closer to students and professors, in turn, strengthening related education and national culture.
  • Space Explorers: a website oriented towards small children, which consists of information on the universe, the solar system, stars, galaxies, constellations and space exploration.
  • The Calán Library: has an antique book collection of around 1,000 titles, published between the years 1700 and 1800 and a modern collection of around 6,000 titles, with the majority related to astronomy and astrophysics.
Secretary Sonia Bustos
Phone +562 29771091
Web site
Address El Observatorio 1515 (Cerro Calán), Las Condes, Santiago, Chile