On International Observe the Moon Night, we had to explore the relationship that Chile has with this natural satellite, what with us being the country with the greatest astronomical observation capacity in the world. But on top of the interesting data obtained by our telescopes, Chile also has many curious anecdotes about the moon that we’ll tell you about below.
Since the dawn of civilization, observing the moon has been a very important pursuit; its different phases have been taken as a reference to establish calendars and human activities. “The moon is our natural satellite; we have tides because of her. For centuries, people have planted and cultivated according to the lunar phases,” says Carolina Agurto, a researcher from the Universidad de Chile with a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Munich, who is part of the Star Tres group for scientific dissemination. This is the reason why in Chile, for example, there are biodynamic vineyards, such as Koyle, Emiliana and Matetic, that are guided by the moon to make their premium wines.
We all like to look at the moon, and Chile is undoubtedly one of the best places in the world to observe her. With about 90% of nights clear each year, our northern skies are an incomparable natural laboratory for studying her. That is why the world’s most powerful telescopes are located here, and used to discover fascinating information about this celestial body. For example, the moon is ¼ of the size of planet Earth; she is 400 times smaller than the sun; her surface area is smaller than Asia; and each year she moves further away from the Earth by 3.8 cm. But our country’s relationship with the moon does not only have to do with its observatories…
The moon belongs to a Chilean?
When the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon, she already had an owner: a Chilean named Jenaro Gajardo Vera, a native of Talca, had already registered her in his name at a local notary’s office on September 25, 1954. Sometime afterwards, the US newspaper The Evening Independent published an article calling the Chilean “the owner of the moon”, reporting that he bought her for only one dollar. From then on, dozens of international media outlets, such as BBC Mundo, carried the story in their pages.
But the truth is that, according to space law, the moon belongs to no one and everyone at the same time… Although it is in the name of a Chilean.
Only Chile broadcast the moon landing in Latin America
The moment that Neil Armstrong and his crew landed on the moon was broadcast live and direct to the entire planet. But of all the countries in Latin America, the only one who managed to see the feat was Chile, thanks to the Longovilo Satellite Station. This was made possible because the international broadcasting satellite was in the Pacific Ocean.
A Chilean radio station sounded on Apollo 11
On one of his trips to Chile, Neil Armstrong recounted that in the middle of their voyage to the moon, which lasted four days, they suddenly intercepted a radio signal in Spanish when they passed across the Pacific Ocean. The astronaut explained that it was the El Conquistador radio station, and said that he found it “pleasant and sweet”.
There are little pieces of the moon in Chile
The Apollo XI astronauts collected fragments of the moon when they were there. Two of them ended up in Chile as a thank you to the country for installing satellite tracking stations in Antofagasta and Peldehue, which contributed to the first moon landing in history. You can go see them at the Natural History Museum and the Frei Family Museum.
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