How can we live in the Atacama Desert?
Chile's Mars-like Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on the planet, is home to just a few lifeforms. It requires a great deal of adaptation and some complicated logistics to operate large observatories there.
Tucked away between the Cordillera de la Costa and the Andes mountain range, the Atacama is an old, bone-dry desert that looks a lot like Mars. Flowers are rare, animals scarce and insects almost absent. At ESO's three main observatory sites, water is pumped up from underground wells or trucked in from afar, just like every scrap of food. To compensate for the harshness of the environment, the lush tropical garden in the Paranal Residencia provides welcome humidity.
Have you ever been in a desert? No food, no water, no electricity - it's really tough! Still, ESO astronomers have learned to live and work in the Atacama Desert in Chile - together with just a few plants and animals.