Hosting the clearest skies in the southern hemisphere, the Atacama Desert in northern Chile draws both astronomers and tourists who want to peek through powerful telescopes. Observatories dot the vast, high-altitude landscape, itself other worldly. Pictured here, the Paranal Observatory's Very Large Telescope
is 27 feet in diameter and could distinguish the headlights of a car sitting on the moon.
In another part of the desert an international partnership of engineers are building what's slated to be the world's most advanced radio telescope, called the Atacama Large Millimeter Array
. It will host 66 high-precision antennae positioned at a breathtaking 16,400 feet above sea level.
Image: H.H. Heyer, European Southern Observatory