The largest astronomical project in the world can be found in Chile’s Atacama Desert. It’s called the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, and it consists of 66 telescopes positioned at close to 17,000 feet above sea level. The altitude and the near-total lack of moisture in the air allow the telescopes to do amazing things like search for the origins of the universe and life itself.
To visit ALMA and see the telescopes in action, you must first pass a battery of medical tests designed to ensure that you don’t die while appreciating the science. Hello World host Ashlee Vance recently ran the medical gantlet during a trip to Chile and a two-day exploration of ALMA.
Vance met with ALMA’s top astronomers and engineers to find out how they survive in such harsh conditions and how they pursue such dramatic astronomical work. He also huffed a bunch of oxygen, took in the most glorious sunset of all time, and met a giant. Life doesn’t get much better than that.