ALMA brings the skies closer to residents of northern Chile

ALMA brings the skies closer to residents of northern Chile

19 March, 2014 / Read time: 2 minutes

Around 2,300 people congregated in downtown La Serena as part of the AstroDay celebration in which 22 institutions, including ALMA, explained to visitors how observatories in Chile function and taught basic elements of astronomy.

Organized by the University of La Serena, the municipality and Gemini Observatory, this version of the AstroDay astronomy fair was held on Saturday, March 15. Also present at the fair were representatives from NASA, several universities, and the Santiago Planetarium, among others.


The ALMA stand featured scale models of an antenna and transporter made from Lego pieces. But what really made ALMA's exhibit a success was the debut of an augmented reality antenna, a code that when scanned with a smartphone or tablet–after installing a free application–allows users to take photos of themselves with a virtual ALMA antenna. The application was created by experts from Japanese company TOPPAN Printing.

"These models encourage children to learn more about the world of astronomy and discover great things in our Universe," said fair visitor Sandra Solís, as she observed children lining up to take their photos with the ALMA virtual antenna.


AstroDay also featured star observation and interesting talks such as “Hidden Astronomy in The Simpsons” by University of La Serena physicist Jose Luis Nilo; “Astronomy in Star Wars” by astronomer Basilio Solis; and “Bad Science in Science Fiction Films” given by David Yenerall, ambassador for NASA's Van Allen Probes Project.

Get your own ALMA virtual antenna 

You can also get an ALMA antenna in augmented reality. To do this, you will need to have a tablet or smartphone with a camera and follow these steps:

1. Download the AReader application from the applicable link:
Apple AppStore 
GooglePlay (Android)

2. While the app is being installed on your device, print this figure.

3. Once you have completed steps 1 and 2, open the AReader application, point your camera at the code you printed and an ALMA antenna will automatically appear on the screen.


Valeria Foncea 
Education and Public Outreach Officer
Joint ALMA Observatory
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56 2 467 6258
Cell: +56 9 75871963
Email: [email protected]