The highest observatory on Earth sits atop Chile’s Andes Mountains — and it’s finally open

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A new telescope billed as the world’s highest astronomical site is officially open for business.

The Japanese University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory, or TAO, which was first conceptualized 26 years ago to study the evolution of galaxies and exoplanets, is perched on top of a tall mountain in the Chilean Andes at 5,640 meters (18,500 feet) above sea level. The facility’s altitude surpasses even the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, which is at an elevation of 5,050 meters (16,570 feet). 

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