LLANO DE CHAJNANTOR, Chile — Earth’s largest radio telescope is growing more powerful by the day on this remote plateau high above Chile’s Atacama desert, where visitors often feel like they’re planting the first human footprints on the red crust of Mars.
The 16,400-foot (5,000-meter) altitude, thin air and mercurial climate here can be unbearable. Visitors must breathe oxygen from a tank just to keep from fainting. Winds reach 62 mph (100 km) and temperatures drop to 10 below zero (minus 25 Celsius).
But for astronomers, it’s paradise.