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Media visits

ALMA welcomes journalists, science writers and producers interested in visits to the site in Northern Chile for production of news stories, documentaries, photo books and other projects, if this does not interfere with the construction and operations and with a previous coordination.

As these visits represent a significant investment of resources from ALMA, the ALMA Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Department reserves the right to choose the projects that have the largest return-on-investment (for instance visibility of ALMA, its partners and astronomy in general).

Media visitors should contact the ALMA EPO Department at least 4 weeks in advance, sending some references of previous works, and detailing:

- Media where the story will be published / broadcasted and tentative date of publication / broadcast

- Objective of the visit. When possible, synopsis of the story to be produced.

- Suggested dates

- Specific requirements, if any (people to be interviewed, special locations, etc)

Please send your request to Valeria Foncea from the ALMA EPO Office: vfoncea@alma.cl

Accommodation & transportation

The closest town to the observatory is San Pedro de Atacama, the main touristic spot in the region. The ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF), is located 40 minutes away from San Pedro, at 2.900m above sea level. ALMA usually grants 1 or 2 days for media representative’s visits, but longer periods can be provided, if necessary, ideally from Monday to Friday.

It is not feasible to provide transportation to media representatives, nor lodging at the OSF. The rental of a vehicle is mandatory to reach the OSF (not necessarily 4-wheel drive). Moreover, to reach the AOS, or high altitude site (5.000 m), rental of a 4x4 vehicle equipped with an anti-roll bar is mandatory. The trip takes around 40 minutes and only drivers who are certified for driving at high altitude are authorized to undertake the trip. A staff member from EPO, or from ALMA, must host these visits.

Safety constraints

At his /her arrival at the ALMA site, the media visitor(s) will be given a safety talk explaining the rules and procedures that have to be duly respected. In any case, the media visitor(s) will be accompanied by a member of the ALMA (or one of its partners) EPO Department, acting as liaison with the astronomers / engineers and getting access to the facilities. Visitors must follow his / her instructions on site.

The high site of ALMA (Chajnantor, 5,000m) has some significant safety constraints. Visitors are required to participate in a paramedic medical check-up (blood pressure, blood oxygen level) at the OSF (Operations Support Facility, 2,900m). Those who do not pass the test will not be allowed to continue to Chajnantor. Additionally, visitors must sign an acknowledgement and release form before being escorted to Chajnantor. Detailed information about high altitude health issues can be found at the ALMA High Altitude Fact Sheet .

ALMA main filming locations

- ALMA OSF, 2,900m, where the ALMA antennas are being assembled by ESO, NRAO and NAOJ. Access to assembly sites is possible, but it should be requested in advance.

- ALMA site museum, archaeological place located at 3,100m on the way to Chajnantor.

- Technical building at Chajnantor, 5,060m, which houses the ALMA correlator super computers.

- Cerro Chico, 5,200m, adjacent to Chajnantor plateau but higher up, for general vistas of the fascinating altiplano landscape and Atacama salt lakes.

Journalists should take contact with the press officer in their respective region (East Asia, Europe, North America and Chile). Please allow at least 3 weeks to handle the request.

As the ALMA observatory is located at 5000 m altitude, journalists should take special notice of health and security issues. It is generally not possible to accommodate journalists overnight on the ALMA site.  It is however rather easy to find an hotel in the close town of San Pedro de Atacama.

Travel

Depending your nationality, you might need a visa to visit Chile. Please check with your Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Flights to Chile are usually overnight flights arriving at the Santiago international terminal in the morning. Air flights within Chile connect major cities. To visit the ALMA site, take a flight to Calama on Lan Chile , Air Comet or Sky Airline.  These flights leave the Santiago domestic terminal (next to the international terminal) beginning at 6 a.m.

Prices for Chilean domestic flights are very variable, depending on the company, the flexibility of the ticket, the departure day and hour. The best is to check several possibilities on the websites of the companies.

Several companies offer a minibus connection from the Calama airport to San Pedro de Atacama. The service connects with all national flights. Alternatively, Chile has many options for car rental, including Hertz and Avis. By law, non-Chileans need an International Driving Permit to drive in Chile.

Local information 

Lodging: Hotels can be surprisingly expensive, especially in San Pedro de Atacama. A list of hotels at San Pedro de Atacama can be found at: http://www.sanpedroatacama.com/. Most hotels accept standard credit cards. At larger hotels, foreign travelers can avoid the Chilean tax by showing their passport and paying with a credit card in dollars or other foreign currencies. Travelers should arrange such payments well before checking out because of the extra time and paper work involved.

Clothing: The ALMA high-site lies at 5,000m (16,500ft). A ski parka or a down jacket, gloves, a hat with ear protection, and wind pants work well. Sun glasses are helpful. Drink lots of water. Use sunburn protection.

Weather: In San Pedro, the days are generally hot, but the nights can be very cold during the south hemisphere winter (from June to August).

Current weather conditions in San Pedro de Atacama, near to ALMA Observatory 

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