The Atacama Desert in Chile is on the wrong side of the Andes. The trade winds that might bring moisture from the east get caught in the mountains instead, making this the driest place on Earth. But this turns out to be perfect for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array—the most powerful telescope in history. At 5,000 meters—about as high as Everest Base Camp—the atmosphere is thin, and the heavens seem near.
Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.