Dark Sky Sanctuary
Elqui Valley, Chile
The Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy Observatory in Chile is the sole representative of 40 U.S. universities and four international affiliates who operate cutting-edge professional astronomy facilities at a near pristine, 36,000 hectare site in the Elqui Valley of northern Chile. AURA purchased the land from the Chilean government in the early 1960s, and the land title makes certain demands of the owner including a limitation of activities solely to the support of astronomical research. Between this restriction and the requirements of proper conditions for making extremely precise scientific measurements, natural darkness over the site has been preserved for decades. In addition to its value to astronomy, the site serves as crucial habitat for a number of sensitive and/or endangered species.
In honor of the Chilean Nobel prize-winning poet Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957), who spent her childhood in the Elqui Valley, the site is known as the “Gabriela Mistral Dark Sky Sanctuary.”