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The University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory was Certified by Guinness World Record as the Highest Astronomical Observatory

The Certificate by GWR

Sensitivity of astronomical observations by a ground based telescope suffer from absorption and scatter by telluric atmosphere, as well as additional foreground emission from it. Therefore, astronomers usually observe at a high-altitude site to achieve the best sensitivity, where amount of the atmosphere above and effect of wind turbulence is smaller. As we go up higher, the barometric pressure is reduced, and at an altitude of 5000m, it is almost half of that at the sea level.

Major sites for astronomical observatories on the Earth

Therefore, modern observatories with large telescopes are concentrated at several sites with high altitude. Atacama plateau in Chile is one of such sites, and expected to be the best place for astronomy, thanks to its dry climate and high altitude.

Nation Region Altitude Observatory Telescopes
1 ChileMt. Chajnantor 5,640mthe University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory mini-TAO
2 Bolivia Mt Chacaltaya 5,200m Chacaltaya Astrophysical Observatory BASJE
3 ChileAtacama Plateau 5,000mLlano de Chajnantor Observatory ALMA, APEX, ASTE, NANTEN2
4 USA Mauna Kea 4,200m Mauna Kea Observatories Subaru, Keck, Gemini, UKIRT, CFHT, IRTF, CSO
5 Antarctica Dome A 4,090m National Astronomical Observatory of China CSTAR
List of Highest Observatory on the Earth

Observations at the University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory are brutal task under harsh environment, although the observational condition is excellent. Even so, we have been carrying out observations since 2009, to make base use of the best environment(low water vapor and low pressure) for infrared astronomy.

TAOsnapshot1 TAOsnapshot2
  • Up : View of Atacama Salt Lake from the summit.
  • Right : Southern night sky seen from the dome, together with the miniTAO 1m telescope and the near infrared camera ANIR installed at the Cassegrain focus.
Current view of the University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory

After the first light of the miniTAO 1m telescope, various observations have been done.Especially,the mid-infrared observations at 30 micron, having been thought to be impossible from the ground, are successfully carried out and producing various scientific outputs.
We have also succeeded to image the ionized gas at the Galactic center by hydrogen emission (Paschen alpha emission line at 1.8751 micron) for the first time from the ground.Survey observations by Paschen alpha to probe ionized gas hidden in our Milky Way galaxy are also underway.

The fish-eye view of the milky way seen from the summit of Mt. Chajnantor