Our universe cannot be understood just by looking through a telescope. The most valuable information in the cosmos reaches Earth in the form of energy and particles that can only be detected by high-precision instruments. For this reason, two international projects have set their sights on Arequipa to install observatories that will benefit from the relief and climatic conditions of the Andes.
One of these projects, promoted by 54 institutions from 12 countries, is the Southern Wide Field Gamma Ray Observatory (SWGO), the first of its kind in the entire southern hemisphere of the planet.
The SWGO is designed to detect gamma rays. It is the light that is generated in cosmic phenomena such as supernovae, neutron stars, or galactic centers. This radiation cannot be perceived by the human eye, but it is detectable by sensors located inside water tanks. The plan is to install hundreds of them in Patapampa, five thousand meters above sea level.
The SWGO committee has Chile, Argentina and our country as candidates for the headquarters of its observatory. However, Dr. José Bellido, a Peruvian astronomer and researcher at the University of Adelaide (Australia), assures that our country is the one with the most possibilities due to local and academic support.
“It is enough for an astronomy project to come along —and for it to work— for an image of stability to be generated. Thus, other teams will not hesitate to approach Peru for future projects”, says Bellido.
Neutrinos in the Colca
That is also the hope of Dr. Carlos Arguelles, a Peruvian physicist and professor at Harvard University, who – together with researchers from various institutions around the world – has devised a neutrino observatory, called TAMBO, to be built in the Colca Canyon. Having no electrical charge and virtually no mass, these ghostly particles travel at the speed of light and can come from the farthest reaches of the universe. In fact, the types of neutrinos the TAMBO project is looking for can interact with radiation left over from the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago.
“Our goal is to detect that dark universe that we have never seen,” says Arguelles. Like gamma rays, neutrinos give away their presence when they hit water atoms inside special tanks.
The UNSA, the PUCP, the UNI, the UNSAAC, the UNMSM and the Conida agency are involved in at least one of these projects. Hundreds of Peruvian scientists await government support.