Astronomy experts track 'monster star' from Chile site

12th Jul 2013

Chile has long been known as a destination for tailor made holidays, but this year its reputation as a serious global astronomy centre took a further step forward with the opening of an £850 million monitoring post in the Atacama Desert from which scientists are tracking a 'monster star'.

The observatory was formed out of a partnership between Chile, Europe, the US and East Asia. Its impressive dishes, west of the Andes mountains, can be seen for miles around.

Scientists have already seen in unique detail the birth of one of the galaxy's biggest stars since the observatory's opening in March.

The "monster star" is expected to grow 100 times larger than the Sun.

Scientists used the new Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) telescope, the most powerful in the world, to watch a dark cloud core 10,000 light years from Earth.

The cloud, from which the star grows, is itself 500 times the mass of the Sun and several times brighter.

Scientists claim their report reveals how the star is formed.

Cardiff University's Dr Nicolas Peretto, lead author of the report, said: "Even though we already believed that the region was a good candidate for being a massive star-forming cloud, we were not expecting to find such a massive embryonic star at its centre."

It was built 5000 metres (16,404ft) above sea level in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth.

For the more terrestrial-minded Chilean visitor, Lauca National Park is recommended for trekking holidays, while San Rafael Glacier is a jaw-dropping spectacle.

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