ALMA Site Visit – Media

ALMA is open to journalists, writers, producers, photographers and camera operators interested in visiting its facilities in northern Chile either to produce news stories, documentaries, photography books or other projects, as long as this does not interfere with the observatory’s regular operations. All visits must be coordinated in advance.

Because these visits imply a significant investment of ALMA resources, the Education and Public Outreach Department (EPO) reserves the right to choose the projects it seems most beneficial in terms of disseminating information about ALMA, its partners and astronomy in general.

Media outlets who want to visit ALMA must complete and submit the form below at least one month in advance and await a confirmation email, which serves as proof of authorization.

Lodging & Transportation

The closest town to the observatory is San Pedro de Atacama, which is the leading tourist attraction in Chile. The ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF or ALMA camp) is located 40 minutes away from San Pedro, at 2,900 m above sea level.

We are unable to provide transportation or lodging at the OSF to members of the media. A list of hotels in San Pedro de Atacama may be found here.

Renting a vehicle is necessary to reach the OSF (4-wheel drive not required). Car rental options in Calama may be found here.

To visit the AOS or high altitude site (5,000 m), a Visitor Coordinator will drive you in an EPO vehicle, as a 4×4 vehicle equipped with an anti-roll bar is mandatory and drivers must be certified to drive at high altitude. The trip takes about 40 minutes.

Safety Requirements

Upon arrival at the ALMA site, media visitor(s) will be shown a safety video explaining the rules and procedures that must be followed. Media visitor(s) will be accompanied at all times by a Visitor Coordinator who will serve as a liaison to the astronomers/engineers and obtain access to the facilities. Visitors must follow the Visitor Coordinator’s instructions while at the site.

ALMA’s high-altitude site (AOS or Chajnantor Plateau, 5,000 m) imposes some significant safety restrictions. Visitors are required to undergo a medical exam (checking blood pressure and blood oxygen levels) at the OSF (Operations Support Facility, 2,900 m). Those who do not pass the exam will not be allowed to continue to Chajnantor. Additionally, visitors must sign an acknowledgment and release form before being escorted to Chajnantor. Visitors allowed to visit the high site may only stay above 3,000 m for a maximum of 2 hours. If more time is needed, all ALMA health requirements must be met. Detailed information about these requirements in the Safety Manual here.

In order to work at 5,000 m (16,500 ft), we recommend bringing a parka, gloves, a hat with ear protection, and wind pants. Sunglasses and sunburn protection are helpful. Because of the altitude, some people may experience the symptoms of altitude sickness (headache, dizziness, nausea, fast heartbeat, etc.). To prevent these symptoms, we recommend that you eat a light breakfast, avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, or Coca-Cola and drink plenty of water.

Main ALMA filming locations

ALMA OSF, 2,900 m: Location of employee living quarters and the technical building where they work, which contains laboratories and the antenna control room, among others. You will usually see antennas undergoing maintenance and an antenna transporter here.

ALMA site museum: Archaeological site located at 3,100 m on the road to Chajnantor.

ALMA AOS, 5,050 m: Location of the antenna array and a technical building that houses the ALMA supercomputer: the Correlator. Adjacent to the Chajnantor Plateau but higher up is possible to obtain shots of the full landscape. Staying at the AOS at night is not allowed.