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ST. PETERSBURG, June 10 (Itar-Tass) - Specialists of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Main Astronomical Observatory in Pulkovo have begun design and planning works on the project of the modernization of a Soviet-era telescope staying frozen since the 1960s in the Andes in Chile, the head of the Russian delegation Alexander Devyatkin, who is deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Pulkovo astronomical observatory, told Itar-Tass on Monday, after a visit to Chile.
Cooperation between Soviet and Chilean astronomers began in the early 1960s under Chile’s socialist President Salvador Allende. At first, cooperation projects were realized at the Cerro Calan observatory. Later, in 1968, a new observatory was built at Cerro El Roble under an agreement between the University of Chile and the Pulkovo observatory. After the military coup in Chile in 1963, Soviet astronomers had to stop cooperation projects, mothball the telescope and leave Chile
The large-aperture two-meniscus AZT-16 Maksutov astrograph of the Soviet make is located on top of Cerro El Roble mountain some 100 kilometers away from Santiago de Chile. The telescope took high-precision astronomical measurements and surveyed the sky for supernova outbursts. Several dozens of asteroids were discovered thanks to this telescope. The Russian delegation that inspected the telescope during its trip to Chile in May found it was still in serviceable condition.
During the Russian delegation’s visit, it was decided to sign a new five-year agreement with the University of Chile to make it possible for Russian astronomers resume work in Chile on a permanent basis. The agreement is expected to be signed soon.
Having returned to St. Petersburg, Russian astronomers have begun to work on a technical assignment to overhaul and modernize the observation station in Chile.
While in Chile, the Russian delegation also had meetings at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Santiago de Chile and visited the European Southern Observatory (ESO), a 10-nation international organization.
“The observatory has four eight-meter telescopes and another one, the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) with a diameter of 39 meters, is currently being built there,” Devyatkin noted. Russia has been invited to join this project but its accepting the invitation, in his words, would mean “an end of the astronomical since in Russia, since the admittance contribution would eat up the entire financing of all Russian astronomical programs and institutions.”