Visoko: An Astronomical Map of More than 100,000 Years

Visoko: An Astronomical Map of More than 100,000 Years

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I met Semir Osmanagich, three years ago, in Pescara (Italy) during a conference on Ancient Civilizations and we had several intriguing conversations that were the seeds of my study on the enigmatic stone found in the valley of Visoko, Bosnia and Herzegovina. In my opinion, Semir is working very hard to prove the existence of the pyramidal complex in Bosnia and I agree with him, when he stated that “Almost everything they teach us about the ancient history is wrong: origin of men, civilizations and pyramids”. History must be rewritten.

After two years of investigations, I may say that the mysterious symbols carved on the enigmatic stone, found near the Ravne Tunnels in Visoko, represent a possible astronomical map. Experts believe the symbols are the core of an ancient writing system carved by an unknown civilization that lived in the valley of Visoko. The stone was an enigma for many years, but I have now found the key in which to decipher the mysterious symbols.

View from Visočica hill where old town Visoki once stood showing today's Visoko and much of historic and present Visoko valley, excluding Moštre ( Wikimedia Commons )

The special signs carved on the stone are not ancient writings, or protorunic, as some researchers assumed, but the clear evidence of a stellar configuration of the sky above Visoko in a very ancient time.

To prove my hypothesis, I studied the symbols by using a methodology based on a description of each sign, considering the correct meaning and proposing the exact correlation with constellations.

The stone has a very intriguing half-sphere shape and it is not a coincidence. The choice has been made taking into consideration the message the creators wanted to convey. Their goal was to reproduce the sky above Visoko, in a very special time, fixing the position of the constellations in respect to their latitude. That is why the stone has a half-spherical shape, because it is a portrayal of the sky.

Now take a look at the details:

The stone is divided into four quadrants by two intersecting lines. I stress the importance of the two lines. The point of origin is in the lower part of the stone, as they wanted to reproduce the celestial sphere as follows: the vertical line is the Celestial Meridian, while the horizontal line is the Celestial Horizon.

The analysis of the symbols gives the opportunity to note the existence of lines whose functions are very important. In the following image, the lines are astronomical measuring devices. In the left quadrant, for instance, the red line - starting from the horizontal line (celestial horizon) - may have two meanings:

  1. To indicate the equinox or solstice dawn;
  2. To indicate the Ecliptic Meridian. In this last case, the red line is the most important symbol carved on the map. It gives the possibility to establish when, along the year, the sky was observed. In fact, the Ecliptic Meridian forms an astronomical imaginary angle of about 45° only at the dawn of the Autumnal Equinox, and its inclination fixes the precise time of the astronomical configuration.

In the right quadrant, the yellow line is also interesting because it is a kind of Sextant, indicating the declination of the Orion Constellation.

Specifically, two points - A and B - are the limits of its declination along the precessional cycle. This is a very important device, because it is possible to establish the correct measurement of the degrees, obtaining the right position of Orion along its declination and the time when the stone was engraved.

Now, take a look at the symbols reproducing the celestial constellations:

I marked with a special color each symbol reproducing a constellation: red, white, yellow, violet, black, and blue.

  1. On the left side, there is the Canis Major constellation (red) and the white lines are the representation of Monoceros constellation in conjunction;
  2. On the Celestial Meridian there is the Orion Constellation and just on its right (in yellow) the Arch of Orion;

In the following image, in the right corner, I stress a particular representation of the Arch of Orion description from an astronomical map.

To the right of the Arch of Orion, I noted a very weathered symbol that I have marked with a black line (see above). I worked very hard to represent this symbol correctly. Using the astronomical configuration, I noted that this symbol represents the Taurus Constellation, a very important symbolic meaning in the ancient culture, strictly linked to Orion Mythology and to the Great Mother Ancient Culture.

The Cetus constellation (blue line) is also represented, just only the upper part. Cetus is a very large constellation and a great part of it lies under the Celestial Horizon. Lastly, on the left, lies the Pisces Constellation (red). On the stone, the lower part of it is represented (visible from Visoko, as point of observation). Its lower part is similar to a triangle as represented in the stone and in the astronomical reproduction (image on the right corner).

The left quadrant contains a very intriguing archetype language. In the most ancient civilizations, the ‘E’ symbolizing the concept of Life. So, the correlation Sun-Life is very distinctive.

We have three E’s in different positions. It seems to be a representation of the Sun crossing the ecliptic… It is possible that the third E indicates the precise moment of the alignment, fixed at about 60° on the ecliptic.

The two circles in gray refer to the stars, planets or Moon… In this last case, we noted that the «circle-Moon» is rising with the Sun, hypothesizing a possible Solar Eclipse.

A solar eclipse has a period of about 180 and the three Suns may indicate the phases of the Eclipse (60 x 3)

The question is: when was this stone was engraved? and what Era is it associated with? Using the Starry Night Pro software, I noted the engraved astronomical configuration never appeared in the sky of Visoko in the last 100,000 years.

This means that:

  1. The astronomical map engraving is much older than 100,000 years;
  2. The Terrestrial Axis had another inclination, so the coordinates are out of order; or
  3. Visoko was not the correct point of observation;

The following image is an astronomical configuration belonging to 82,250 BC, when the constellations represented on the stone were fixed in the sky above Visoko. But, the correlation is not precise. I believe the exact correlation is older than 100,000 years.

Featured image: The Visoko Stone. Credit: Foundation Archaeological park Bosnian Pyramid of The Sun

By Armando Mei

The small English town of Margate sits along the far eastern.

Summer Tango Retreat @ Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids

With great pleasure we announce the Summer Tango Retreat at .

Project ion shield.

Ionic balance: Bear in mind that the ionic balance of the a.


Since the Bosnian pyramids were discovered by Dr. Semir Osmanagich in 2005, there has been many excavations on the different structures and the two tunnels in Visoko. There are five structures in Visoko, which contains, the Bosnian Sun pyramid, Moon pyramid, Dragon pyramid, Love pyramid and the Temple of Mother Earth. Furthermore, there is one Tumulus in Vratnica and one other structure in the Ginje Village, which is near Visoko. There are also two tunnels, the KTK tunnels and the most known, the Ravne tunnels.

There has been many artefacts that has been discovered since 2005 and some of them are very interesting and could give us an understanding in which civilization or culture we are dealing with. There is no doubt that the builders of the Bosnian pyramids were very connected to the nature and we can see that by studying some of the artefacts very close. There has, of course, been found artefacts that cannot be natural and must have some human-intervention.

I have some pictures of some different artefacts that are one of the most interesting foundings that has been found in the Bosnian valley of the pyramids. The artefacts has different sizes and different materials and has been found on different structures and tunnels around the Bosnian pyramids and Visoko.

We need to remember that there is no great answers, yet, to these artefacts and what the ancient builders were thinking about when they shaped or made them. So we can only try, right now, to find and maybe guess the answers, but of course, the artefacts and the pyramids in Visoko are giving more questions than answers right now. Also, remember that the point of this article is to give the public some understandings to the Bosnian pyramids and its artefacts.

Let us begin with the artefacts that has been found on the structures or around Visoko. The most interesting and convincing artefact is the pyramid that has been found in the area ‘’Okoliste,’’ which is circa three kilometers from Visoko. German archaeologists in the collaboration with the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina found the pyramid-artefact while excavating an archaeological site. The material that the artefact is made of is ceramic and the artefact was in Germany for research and is now probably in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, hidden from the public.

The picture you just saw is one of the few pictures of the artefact on the internet. People have different thories of what this artefact is, but we can almost certainly say that this artefact is a pyramid. Which pyramid it is, we do not know, but it could be the Bosnian Moon pyramid because the pyramid looks more like a Mexican pyramid, than an Egyptian pyramid, because the Egyptian pyramids looks more like the Bosnian Sun pyramid. Of course, everyone can have their own opinion about this artefact.

The next artefact was found on the slope of the Bosnian Dragon pyramid, one of the few artefacts that has been discovered on the Dragon pyramid. There is not too much information on this artefact on the internet, but the artefact has one stone, where the stone is grey, with colour red.

This artefact is very interesting, although it is much smaller than on the picture. The artefact can represent many different things. Some say that it is an amulet, while others say that it is some kind small statue. It could also represent the three different pyramids, Sun, Moon and Dragon pyramids that are in Visoko. One thing is sure, that it has been some kind of human-intervention with this artefact, because the nature can not shape these kind of stones with sharp edges where the grey stone is.

There is also an artefact that represent some kind of foot. The artefact was found on the Tumulus in Vratnica and it was found circa one meter under the soil. The material is sandstone.

This is not the first foot-artefact that was discovered in the Bosnian valley of the pyramids. There has been found foot-artefacts in the tunnels also. It appears that this artefact is representing the right side of the foot and the interesting thing is that almost every foot-artefact that has been found has most probably been a right-foot. Some foot-artefacts even have symbols on them.

I am not quite sure where this artefact was found, but the artefact was studied by volunteers in the foundation’s (Archaeological Park: Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation) laboratory. The volunteers tried to draw the symbols on a piece of paper and it could be some kind of ancient language or something else. One of the most interesting things, when I studied the artefact, was that there is some kind of figure on the artefact. These foot-artefacts needs to be researched further to get some more information about them.

There has also been many face-artefacts that has been found in the Bosnian Valley of the pyramids. The most popular is the face-artefact, which was found on the top of the Bosnian Sun pyramid. The artefact is very small and soft.

Powered by Heavens Above, our interactive viewer charts the night sky as seen by eye. The map includes the Moon, stars brighter than magnitude 5, the five bright planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), and deep-sky objects that can be seen without the use of optical aid.

Chart the stars and planets visible to the unaided eye from any location, at any time of day or night, on any date between the years 1600 to 2400. Simply enter your location, either via zip code, city, or latitude/longitude, and find out what's up in your sky tonight! Change the horizon view by dragging the green square on the full-sky chart.

Customize your map to show (or not show) constellation lines, names, and boundaries, deep-sky objects, star and planet names, and more. We also now offer the option to turn off the Sun, in order to show which stars are up during the daytime. The chart is mobile-friendly, so take it with you when you head outside. There's also an option to print a black-on-white version of the all-sky chart — just use the printer icon at top right.

And don't forget to experiment! Discover the difference between equinox and solstice, and find out if the constellations really are upside down on the other side of the equator.

If you have questions about how to use this sky chart, please email us at [email protected]

We’re Absolutely Surrounded by Double Stars, New 3D Map Suggests

Remember that sublime moment in Star Wars when an introspective Luke Skywalker gazes upon a double sunset on Tatooine? To our eyes, that’s some seriously exotic stuff, but binary star systems are actually quite common, representing at least half of all Sun-like stars in the Milky Way. That said, a hefty portion of these include “wide binaries,” in which distances between stellar companions exceeds 10 AU, or 10 times the average distance from the Earth to the Sun (it’s also a comparable distance between the Earth and Saturn).

New research published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society provides a census of these wide binaries, at least those to within 3,000 light years of Earth. The new paper, led by astrophysicist Kareem El-Badry, a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, chronicles the relative locations of 1.3 million binary pairs spread across a good chunk of the Milky Way, which measures more than 100,000 light years in diameter. Jackie Faherty from the American Museum of Natural History in New York worked with El-Badry to produce a stunning video fly-through of the newly mapped binary pairs.

To compile the new 3D atlas, El-Badry used data gathered by ESA’s Gaia space telescope, which has been in orbit at the Earth-Sun Lagrange point—that sweet spot between two large objects that allows spacecraft like Gaia to stay put—since 2013.

Finding binary stars parked closely to each other is a relatively straightforward process (you need a spectrometer), but finding wide binaries is another thing entirely. That’s where Gaia comes in, with its ability to measure the position and proper motion of nearby stars, which it’s done for millions of objects. That said, it can’t really track stars further than 3,000 light years away, hence the limited scope of the new census.

Wide binaries are “easy to study with the Gaia spacecraft, because at wide separations the two stars can be spatially resolved as two distinct points of light on the sky,” El-Badry explained in an email. “At closer separations, binaries are unresolved, so other methods (like spectroscopy) are needed to detect them.”

The Battle Rages On: November 21-23, 1943

On the morning of November 21, the second day of fighting, unexpectedly low tides continued to plague the U.S. assault. Again, assault troops had to leave their crafts short of the shore and wade in through enemy fire. In addition to being fired upon from shore, Marines were also assaulted from their sides and rear by enemy snipers who had entered the lagoon under the cover of night to position themselves on crafts that had been wrecked and abandoned the day before.

By noon, however, the tide finally began to rise, and U.S. destroyers were able to maneuver closer to shore to lend accurate supporting fire. Reserve combat teams and support craft transporting tanks and weapons raced to shore, and the ground assault finally took orderly form. The Marines moved inland, blasting surviving enemy emplacements with grenades, demolition packs and flamethrowers.

On day three of the battle, November 22, the Marines fought on, destroying several Japanese pillboxes and fortifications. That night, the last Japanese defenders of Betio launched a furious but futile banzai charge, or all-out, suicidal attack. Most Japanese soldiers fought to their death rather than surrender. At morning light on November 23, the defenders lay in tangled heaps: All but 17 Japanese soldiers had died defending Betio. Seventy-six hours after the invasion began, Betio was finally declared secure.

New Map Locates Milky Way in Neighborhood of 100,000 Galaxies

Astronomers have defined a huge group of galaxies called a supercluster, now named Laniakea, with the Milky Way on its fringes.

A new map of the Milky Way's cosmic neighborhood shows where our galaxy lives in relation to thousands of others nearby, with scientists giving the newly discovered "supercluster" of galaxies a name: Laniakea, which means "immeasurable heaven" in Hawaiian.

Throughout the universe, galaxies tend to clump together in massive structures that astronomers call superclusters. According to the new map, Earth's galaxy lives near the edge of the Laniakea supercluster, which measures 500 million light-years in diameter and includes roughly 100,000 galaxies.

The region is just a small slice of the visible universe, which spans more than 90 billion light-years.

"Seeing a map gives you a sense of place," says University of Hawaii astronomer Brent Tully, an author of the study describing the supercluster, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature. "For me, having that sense of place and seeing the relationship of things is very important in terms of understanding it."

It's not the first time that scientists have mapped the Milky Way's neighborhood, but previous maps couldn't identify which galaxies were bound together by gravity to form the Milky Way's supercluster.

Tully and his colleagues have defined Laniakea's boundaries and galactic inhabitants by looking at how galaxies move through space. The team used a measurement called "peculiar motion," which takes a galaxy's total movement and subtracts the motion contributed by the expansion of the universe.

From there, scientists can generate flow lines that indicate how galaxies are moving, revealing the gravitational center that is drawing them in. These attractors control the behavior of member galaxies, forming the cores of superclusters.

But determining the peculiar motions that point toward these cores is tricky.

"It's a really difficult observation to make, per galaxy," says David Schlegel, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Schlegel, who is working on a project that will map 25 million galaxies, spent some time tackling similar maps in graduate school.

"A lot of people actually worked on it, but it was such a mess that essentially all of them gave up," he says. "This group, Tully in particular, has persevered and kept working on it."

After studying the peculiar motions of 8,000 galaxies, Tully and his colleagues could identify which gravitational center controlled the Milky Way and its galactic neighbors. They used that information to define the extent of the supercluster. Simply put, galaxies whose motion is controlled by Laniakea's Great Attractor—located in the direction of the constellation Centaurus—are part of the Laniakea supercluster.

Galaxies that are being pulled toward a different attractor are in a different supercluster (the next one over is called Perseus-Pisces), even if they're right next to each other in the sky.

"We're finding the edges, the boundaries," Tully says. "It really is similar to the idea of watersheds on the surface of the planet. The edges of watersheds are pretty obvious when you're in the Rocky Mountains, but it's a lot less obvious if you're on really flat land. Still, the water knows which way to go."

Within the supercluster, galaxies are strung like beads on cosmic strings, each anchored to the Great Attractor. The Milky Way is at the fringe of one of those strings, perched on the edge of the Local Void—an area where, as the name suggests, there isn't much to be found.

These kinds of large-scale strings and voids are common throughout the universe. But Tully notes one surprise that emerged while mapping Laniakea: The supercluster is being yanked on by an even larger assemblage of galaxies, called the Shapley Concentration.

"It's a really big thing, and we're being pulled toward it. But we don't have enough information yet to find the Shapley Concentration's outline," Tully says. "We might be part of something even bigger."

Switzerland History

Switzerland history is about as interesting as history gets. Like all of the countries in Europe, Switzerland has been home to human activity for more than 100,000 years. Many of the people who inhabited modern-day Switzerland in the early years didn't establish permanent settlements. As far as the first farming settlements are concerned, the earliest known examples date back to around 5300 BC. The first group to identifiably inhabit what is now Switzerland, however, were the Celts, who were moving east at the time. This occurred around 15 BC, which is also when the Roman ruler, Tiberius I, conquered the Alps. The Celts occupied the western part of Switzerland, while the eastern half became part of a Roman province that was named Raetia.

In terms of interesting facts about Switzerland, it is worth noting that the Romans conquered the various tribes that had taken up residence in the country in and around 15 BC. The Roman colonization of Swiss lands would last up until 455 AD, which is when the Barbarians decided to invade. Not long after the Barbarians conquered the Romans, the Christians would move in. During the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries, the Swiss territory became part of the Frankish Empire. It was none other than Charlemagne who eventually conquered the various cantons in Switzerland, and he did so in 843. The Swiss lands would be divided until 1,000 AD, which is the year that they joined the Holy Roman Empire and became unified.

There aren't a lot of historical attractions that date back to the Roman days in Switzerland, though visitors can visit some interesting ruins that offer insight into early Swiss history. Near the city of Basel, some of the most interesting Roman ruins can be found. This site, which is known as Augusta Raurica, is only about seven miles from the city, and among its highlights are some fascinating ruins and an excellent museum. Two other attractions that offer insight into the storied history of Switzerland are the Grossmunster Cathedral and the Fraumunster Church, both of which can be found in Zurich. These cathedrals have been renovated and partially rebuilt since their creation, though they originally date back to the days when Switzerland was little more than a chess piece in the strategic game of European domination.

Switzerland Map

Looking at the historical facts about Switzerland, how often this country changed hands starts to stand out. The lands that we know as Switzerland today fell into the hands of the Houses of Savoy and the Hapsburgs, among other ruling factions. By the end of the thirteenth century, however, the seed of independence was sewn. In the year 1291, some of the cantons in Switzerland formed an alliance, which was the impetus for the push towards sovereignty. After breaking from the Holy Roman Empire in 1439, the Perpetual Alliance, as this alliance of cantons was known, signed a treaty with France that proved to cause some significant turmoil within the Swiss borders. In the early sixteenth century, what amounts to a civil war of sorts broke out in Switzerland due to some of the agreements between the alliance and France. One of the more interesting dates in Swiss history is 1516. This was the year that the alliance decided to declare their neutrality. To this day, Switzerland maintains a neutral stance in terms of world affairs. The country has not gone to war since 1815, and interestingly enough, it was one of the last countries to join the United Nations.

Before Switzerland joined the United Nations, it became a center for the Protestant Reformation, which led to numerous wars, such as the Battles of Villmergen, which took place in 1656 and 1712. In 1798, Switzerland was conquered by the French Revolution. The Swiss refused to fight alongside the French troops of Napolean once the Russian and Austrian forces arrived, however, and Swiss autonomy was reestablished shortly thereafter. The Congress of Vienna set the borders of Switzerland as they are known today in the year of 1814. This is one of the more interesting facts about Switzerland. One of the other more interesting years in Swiss history is 1848. This was the year that the country adopted its federal constitution, naming Bern as the capital in the process. The development of the country would begin not long afterward. In the late 1800s, tourism really started to take off in Switzerland, and the rest of the world started taking notice of how beautiful the country is. The Swiss Alps cover most of the country, and they are among the most picturesque mountains in the world.

Switzerland history is full of interesting facts, and one could study it for years if they were so inclined. For travelers, visiting some of the country's historical attractions is one of the best ways to embrace Swiss history. In Bern, two of the more interesting historical attractions include the Zytglogge and the Munster. The former is a medieval clock tower that features moving puppets and a fifteenth-century astronomical clock. As for the Munster, it is a fifteenth-century Gothic cathedral that is noted for its complete main portal, its soaring tower, and its valuable stained-glass windows. Another good way to gain insight into the history of Switzerland is to visit some museums while in the country. The Bern Historical Museum is a good place to learn about the capital, and most of the other cities and towns in the country offers their own history museums. Learning as much as possible about Swiss history before visiting the country is a good idea. It helps travelers better appreciate the attractions, the culture, and the people.


According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Atacama Desert ecoregion occupies a continuous strip for nearly 1,600 km (1,000 mi) along the narrow coast of the northern third of Chile, from near Arica (18°24′S) southward to near La Serena (29°55′S). [11] The National Geographic Society considers the coastal area of southern Peru to be part of the Atacama Desert [12] [13] and includes the deserts south of the Ica Region in Peru.

Peru borders it on the north and the Chilean Matorral ecoregion borders it on the south. To the east lies the less arid Central Andean dry puna ecoregion. The drier portion of this ecoregion is located south of the Loa River between the parallel Sierra Vicuña Mackenna and Cordillera Domeyko. To the north of the Loa lies the Pampa del Tamarugal.

The Coastal Cliff of northern Chile west of the Chilean Coast Range is the main topographical feature of the coast. [14] The geomorphology of the Atacama Desert has been characterized as a low-relief bench "similar to a giant uplifted terrace" by Armijo and co-workers. [15] The intermediate depression (or Central Valley) forms a series of endorheic basins in much of Atacama Desert south of latitude 19°30'S. North of this latitude, the intermediate depression drains into the Pacific Ocean. [16]

The almost total lack of precipitation is the most prominent characteristic of the Atacama Desert. [18]

In 2012, the altiplano winter brought floods to San Pedro de Atacama. [19] [20]

On 25 March 2015, heavy rainfall affected the southern part of the Atacama Desert. [21] [22] Resulting floods triggered mudflows that affected the cities of Copiapo, Tierra Amarilla, Chanaral, and Diego de Almagro, causing the deaths of more than 100 people.

Aridity Edit

The Atacama Desert is commonly known as the driest place in the world, especially the surroundings of the abandoned Yungay town [23] (in Antofagasta Region, Chile). [24] The average rainfall is about 15 mm (0.6 in) per year, [25] although some locations receive 1 to 3 mm (0.04 to 0.12 in) in a year. [26] Moreover, some weather stations in the Atacama have never received rain. Periods up to four years have been registered with no rainfall in the central sector, delimited by the cities of Antofagasta, Calama, and Copiapó, in Chile. [27] Evidence suggests that the Atacama may not have had any significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971. [6]

The Atacama Desert may be the oldest desert on earth, and has experienced extreme hyperaridity for at least 3 million years, making it the oldest continuously arid region on earth. The long history of aridity raises the possibility that supergene mineralisation, under the appropriate conditions, can form in arid environments, instead of requiring humid conditions. [28] The presence of evaporite formations suggest that in some sections of the Atacama Desert, arid conditions have persisted for the last 200 million years (since the Triassic).

The Atacama is so arid that many mountains higher than 6,000 m (20,000 ft) are completely free of glaciers. Only the highest peaks (such as Ojos del Salado, Monte Pissis, and Llullaillaco) have some permanent snow coverage.

The southern part of the desert, between 25 and 27°S, may have been glacier-free throughout the Quaternary (including during glaciations), though permafrost extends down to an altitude of 4,400 m (14,400 ft) and is continuous above 5,600 m (18,400 ft). Studies by a group of British scientists have suggested that some river beds have been dry for 120,000 years. [29] However, some locations in the Atacama receive a marine fog known locally as the camanchaca, providing sufficient moisture for hypolithic algae, lichens, and even some cacti—the genus Copiapoa is notable among these.

Geographically, the aridity of the Atacama is explained by it being situated between two mountain chains (the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range) of sufficient height to prevent moisture advection from either the Pacific or the Atlantic Oceans, a two-sided rain shadow. [9]

Comparison to Mars Edit

In a region about 100 km (60 mi) south of Antofagasta, which averages 3,000 m (10,000 ft) in elevation, the soil has been compared to that of Mars. Owing to its otherworldly appearance, the Atacama has been used as a location for filming Mars scenes, most notably in the television series Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets.

In 2003, a team of researchers published a report in which they duplicated the tests used by the Viking 1 and Viking 2 Mars landers to detect life and were unable to detect any signs in Atacama Desert soil in the region of Yungay. [31] The region may be unique on Earth in this regard and is being used by NASA to test instruments for future Mars missions. The team duplicated the Viking tests in Mars-like Earth environments and found that they missed present signs of life in soil samples from Antarctic dry valleys, the Atacama Desert of Chile and Peru, and other locales. However, in 2014, a new hyperarid site was reported, María Elena South, which was much drier than Yungay and, thus, a better Mars-like environment. [32]

In 2008, the Phoenix Mars Lander detected perchlorates on the surface of Mars at the same site where water was first discovered. [34] Perchlorates are also found in the Atacama and associated nitrate deposits have contained organics, leading to speculation that signs of life on Mars are not incompatible with perchlorates. The Atacama is also a testing site for the NASA-funded Earth–Mars Cave Detection Program. [35]

In spite of the geographic and climatic conditions of the desert, a rich variety of flora has evolved there. Over 500 species have been gathered within the border of this desert. These species are characterized by their extraordinary ability to adapt to this extreme environment. [36] Most common species are the herbs and flowers such as thyme, llareta, and saltgrass (Distichlis spicata), and where humidity is sufficient, trees such as the chañar (Geoffroea decorticans), the pimiento tree, and the leafy algarrobo (Prosopis chilensis).

The llareta is one of the highest-growing wood species in the world. It is found at altitudes between 3,000 and 5,000 m (9,800 and 16,400 ft). Its dense form is similar to a pillow some 3 to 4 m (9.8 to 13.1 ft) thick. It concentrates and retains the heat from the day to cope with low evening temperatures. The growth rate of the llareta has been recently estimated at about 1.5 cm/year (0.59 in/year), making many llaretas over 3,000 years old. It produces a much-prized resin, which the mining industry once harvested indiscriminately as fuel, making this plant endangered.

The desert is also home to cacti, succulents, and other plants that thrive in a dry climate. Cactus species here include the candelabro (Browningia candelaris) and cardon (Echinopsis atacamensis), which can reach a height of 7 m (23 ft) and a diameter of 70 cm (28 in).

The Atacama Desert flowering (Spanish: desierto florido) can be seen from September to November in years with sufficient precipitation, as happened in 2015. [21] [22]

The climate of the Atacama Desert limits the number of animals living permanently in this extreme ecosystem. Some parts of the desert are so arid, no plant or animal life can survive. Outside of these extreme areas, sand-colored grasshoppers blend with pebbles on the desert floor, and beetles and their larvae provide a valuable food source in the lomas (hills). Desert wasps and butterflies can be found during the warm and humid season, especially on the lomas. Red scorpions also live in the desert.

A unique environment is provided by some lomas, where the fog from the ocean provides enough moisture for seasonal plants and a few animal species. Surprisingly few reptile species inhabit the desert and even fewer amphibian species. Chaunus atacamensis, the Vallenar toad or Atacama toad, lives on the lomas, where it lays eggs in permanent ponds or streams. Iguanians and lava lizards inhabit parts of the desert, while salt flat lizards, Liolaemus, live in the dry areas bordering the ocean. [37] One species, Liolaemus fabiani, is endemic to the Salar de Atacama, the Atacama salt flat. [38]

Birds are one of the most diverse animal groups in the Atacama. Humboldt penguins live year-round along the coast, nesting in desert cliffs overlooking the ocean. Inland, high-altitude salt flats are inhabited by Andean flamingos, while Chilean flamingos can be seen along the coast. Other birds (including species of hummingbirds and rufous-collared sparrow) visit the lomas seasonally to feed on insects, nectar, seeds, and flowers. The lomas help sustain several threatened species, such as the endangered Chilean woodstar.

Because of the desert's extreme aridity, only a few specially adapted mammal species live in the Atacama, such as Darwin's leaf-eared mouse. The less arid parts of the desert are inhabited by the South American gray fox and the viscacha (a relative of the chinchilla). Larger animals, such as guanacos and vicuñas, graze in areas where grass grows, mainly because it is seasonally irrigated by melted snow. Vicuñas need to remain near a steady water supply, while guanacos can roam into more arid areas and survive longer without fresh water. South American fur seals and South American sea lions often gather along the coast.

The Atacama is sparsely populated, with most towns located along the Pacific coast. [39] In interior areas, oases and some valleys have been populated for millennia and were the location of the most advanced pre-Columbian societies found in Chile. [ citation needed ]

Chinchorro culture Edit

The Chinchorro culture developed in the Atacama Desert area from 7000 BCE to 1500 BCE. These peoples were sedentary fishermen inhabiting mostly coastal areas. Their presence is found from today's towns of Ilo, in southern Peru, to Antofagasta in northern Chile. Presence of fresh water in the arid region on the coast facilitated human settlement in these areas. The Chinchorro were famous for their detailed mummification and funerary practices. [40]

Inca and Spanish empires Edit

San Pedro de Atacama, at about 2,400 m (8,000 ft) elevation, is like many of the small towns. Before the Inca empire and prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the extremely arid interior was inhabited primarily by the Atacameño tribe. They are noted for building fortified towns called pucarás, one of which is located a few kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama. The town's church was built by the Spanish in 1577.

The oasis settlement of Pica has Pre-hispanic origins and served as an important stopover for transit between the coast and the Altiplano during the time of the Inca Empire. [41]

The coastal cities originated in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries during the time of the Spanish Empire, when they emerged as shipping ports for silver produced in Potosí and other mining centers.

Republican period Edit

During the 19th century, the desert came under control of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. With the discovery of sodium nitrate deposits and as a result of unclear borders, the area soon became a zone of conflict and resulted in the War of the Pacific. Chile annexed most of the desert, and cities along the coast developed into international ports, hosting many Chilean workers who migrated there. [42] [43] [44]

With the guano and saltpeter booms of the 19th century, the population grew immensely, mostly as a result of immigration from central Chile. In the 20th century, the nitrate industry declined and at the same time, the largely male population of the desert became increasingly problematic for the Chilean state. Miners and mining companies came into conflict, and protests spread throughout the region.

Around 1900, there were irrigation system of puquios spread through the oases of Atacama Desert. [45] Puquios are known from the valleys of Azapa and Sibaya and the oases of La Calera, Pica-Matilla and Puquio de Núñez. [45] In 1918, geologist Juan Brüggen mentioned the existence of 23 socavones (shafts) in the Pica oasis, yet these have since been abandoned due to economic and social changes. [45]

Abandoned nitrate mining towns Edit

The desert has rich deposits of copper and other minerals and the world's largest natural supply of sodium nitrate (Chile saltpeter), which was mined on a large scale until the early 1940s. The Atacama border dispute over these resources between Chile and Bolivia began in the 19th century and resulted in the War of the Pacific. [46]

The desert is littered with about 170 abandoned nitrate (or "saltpeter") mining towns, almost all of which were shut down decades after the invention of synthetic nitrate in Germany in the first decade of the 20th century (see Haber process). [ citation needed ] The towns include Chacabuco, Humberstone, Santa Laura, Pedro de Valdivia, Puelma, María Elena, and Oficina Anita. [ citation needed ]

The Atacama Desert is rich in metallic mineral resources such as copper, gold, silver and iron, as well as nonmetallic minerals including important deposits of boron, lithium, sodium nitrate, and potassium salts. The Salar de Atacama is where bischofite is extracted. [ citation needed ] These resources are exploited by various mining companies such as Codelco, Lomas Bayas, Mantos Blancos, and Soquimich. [47] [48]

Because of its high altitude, nearly nonexistent cloud cover, dry air, and lack of light pollution and radio interference from widely populated cities and towns, this desert is one of the best places in the world to conduct astronomical observations. [50] [51] A radio astronomy telescope, called the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, built by European countries, Japan, the United States, Canada, and Chile in the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory officially opened on 3 October 2011. [52] A number of radio astronomy projects, such as the CBI, the ASTE and the ACT, among others, have been operating in the Chajnantor area since 1999. On 26 April 2010, the ESO council decided to build a fourth site, Cerro Armazones, to be home to the Extremely Large Telescope. [53] [54] [55] Construction work at the ELT site started in June 2014. [56]

The European Southern Observatory operates three major observatories in the Atacama and is currently building a fourth:

Sports Edit

The Atacama Desert is popular with all-terrain sports enthusiasts. Various championships have taken place here, including the Lower Atacama Rally, Lower Chile Rally, Patagonia-Atacama Rally, and the latter Dakar Rally's editions. The rally was organized by the Amaury Sport Organisation and held in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. The dunes of the desert are ideal rally races located in the outskirts of the city of Copiapó. [57] The 2013 Dakar 15-Day Rally started on 5 January in Lima, Peru, through Chile, Argentina and back to Chile finishing in Santiago. [58] Visitors also use the Atacama Desert sand dunes for sandboarding (Spanish: duna).

A week-long foot race called the Atacama Crossing has the competitors cross the various landscapes of the Atacama. [59]

An event called Volcano Marathon takes place near the Lascar volcano in the Atacama Desert. [60]

Solar car racing Edit

Eighteen solar powered cars were displayed in front of the presidential palace (La Moneda) in Santiago in November 2012. [61] The cars were then raced 1,300 km (810 mi) through the desert from 15–19 November 2012. [62]

Tourism Edit

Most people who go to tour the sites in the desert stay in the town of San Pedro de Atacama. [63] The Atacama Desert is in the top three tourist locations in Chile. The specially commissioned ESO hotel is reserved for astronomers and scientists. [64]

About 80 geysers occur in a valley about 80 km from the town of San Pedro de Atacama. They are closer to the town of Chiu Chiu. [65]

The Baños de Puritama are rock pools which are 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the geysers. [66]

Tara Cathedrals (left) and Tara salt flat

Valle de la Luna, near San Pedro de Atacama

Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes, home to the ESO/NAOJ/NRAO ALMA

The Milky Way streaking across the skies above the Chilean Atacama Desert


Evidence for the quaternary glaciation was first understood in the 18th and 19th centuries as part of the scientific revolution.

Over the last century, extensive field observations have provided evidence that continental glaciers covered large parts of Europe, North America, and Siberia. Maps of glacial features were compiled after many years of fieldwork by hundreds of geologists who mapped the location and orientation of drumlins, eskers, moraines, striations, and glacial stream channels in order to reveal the extent of the ice sheets, the direction of their flow, and the locations of systems of meltwater channels. They also allowed scientists to decipher a history of multiple advances and retreats of the ice. Even before the theory of worldwide glaciation was generally accepted, many observers recognized that more than a single advance and retreat of the ice had occurred.

To geologists, an ice age is marked by the presence of large amounts of land-based ice. Prior to the Quaternary glaciation, land-based ice formed during at least four earlier geologic periods: the Karoo (360–260 Ma), Andean-Saharan (450–420 Ma), Cryogenian (720–635 Ma) and Huronian (2,400–2,100 Ma). [5] [6]

Within the Quaternary Period, or ice age, there were also periodic fluctuations of the total volume of land ice, the sea level, and global temperatures. During the colder episodes (referred to as glacial periods, or simply glacials) large ice sheets at least 4 km (2.5 mi) thick at their maximum existed in Europe, North America, and Siberia. The shorter and warmer intervals between glacials, when continental glaciers retreated, are referred to as interglacials. These are evidenced by buried soil profiles, peat beds, and lake and stream deposits separating the unsorted, unstratified deposits of glacial debris.

Initially the fluctuation period was about 41,000 years, but following the Mid-Pleistocene Transition it has slowed to about 100,000 years, as evidenced most clearly by ice cores for the past 800,000 years and marine sediment cores for the earlier period. Over the past 740,000 years there have been eight glacial cycles. [7]

The entire Quaternary Period, starting 2.58 Ma, is referred to as an ice age because at least one permanent large ice sheet—the Antarctic ice sheet—has existed continuously. There is uncertainty over how much of Greenland was covered by ice during each interglacial.

Currently, Earth is in an interglacial period, which marked the beginning of the Holocene epoch. The current interglacial began between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago this caused the ice sheets from the last glacial period to begin to disappear. Remnants of these last glaciers, now occupying about 10% of the world's land surface, still exist in Greenland, Antarctica and some mountainous regions.

During the glacial periods, the present (i.e. interglacial) hydrologic system was completely interrupted throughout large areas of the world and was considerably modified in others. Due to the volume of ice on land, sea level was about 120 metres (394 ft) lower than present.

Earth's history of glaciation is a product of the internal variability of Earth's climate system (e.g., ocean currents, carbon cycle), interacting with external forcing by phenomena outside the climate system (e.g., changes in earth's orbit, volcanism, and changes in solar output). [8]

Astronomical cycles Edit

The role of Earth's orbital changes in controlling climate was first advanced by James Croll in the late 19th century. [9] Later, Milutin Milanković, a Serbian geophysicist, elaborated on the theory and calculated that these irregularities in Earth's orbit could cause the climatic cycles now known as Milankovitch cycles. [10] They are the result of the additive behavior of several types of cyclical changes in Earth's orbital properties.

Changes in the orbital eccentricity of Earth occur on a cycle of about 100,000 years. [11] The inclination, or tilt, of Earth's axis varies periodically between 22° and 24.5° in a cycle 41,000 years long. [11] The tilt of Earth's axis is responsible for the seasons the greater the tilt, the greater the contrast between summer and winter temperatures. Precession of the equinoxes, or wobbles of Earth's rotation axis, have a periodicity of 26,000 years. According to the Milankovitch theory, these factors cause a periodic cooling of Earth, with the coldest part in the cycle occurring about every 40,000 years. The main effect of the Milankovitch cycles is to change the contrast between the seasons, not the overall amount of solar heat Earth receives. The result is less ice melting than accumulating, and glaciers build up.

Milankovitch worked out the ideas of climatic cycles in the 1920s and 1930s, but it was not until the 1970s that a sufficiently long and detailed chronology of the Quaternary temperature changes was worked out to test the theory adequately. [12] Studies of deep-sea cores, and the fossils contained in them, indicate that the fluctuation of climate during the last few hundred thousand years is remarkably close to that predicted by Milankovitch.

A problem with the theory is that these astronomical cycles have been in existence for many millions of years, but glaciation is a rare occurrence. Astronomical cycles correlate with glacial and interglacial periods, and their transitions, within a long-term ice age but do not initiate these long-term ice ages.

Atmospheric composition Edit

One theory holds that decreases in atmospheric CO
2 , an important greenhouse gas, started the long-term cooling trend that eventually led to glaciation. Geological evidence indicates a decrease of more than 90% in atmospheric CO
2 since the middle of the Mesozoic Era. [13] An analysis of CO
2 reconstructions from alkenone records shows that CO
2 in the atmosphere declined before and during Antarctic glaciation, and supports a substantial CO
2 decrease as the primary cause of Antarctic glaciation. [14]

2 levels also play an important role in the transitions between interglacials and glacials. High CO
2 contents correspond to warm interglacial periods, and low CO
2 to glacial periods. However, studies indicate that CO
2 may not be the primary cause of the interglacial-glacial transitions, but instead acts as a feedback. [15] The explanation for this observed CO
2 variation "remains a difficult attribution problem". [15]

Plate tectonics and ocean currents Edit

An important component in the development of long-term ice ages is the positions of the continents. [16] These can control the circulation of the oceans and the atmosphere, affecting how ocean currents carry heat to high latitudes. Throughout most of geologic time, the North Pole appears to have been in a broad, open ocean that allowed major ocean currents to move unabated. Equatorial waters flowed into the polar regions, warming them. This produced mild, uniform climates that persisted throughout most of geologic time.

But during the Cenozoic Era, the large North American and South American continental plates drifted westward from the Eurasian plate. This interlocked with the development of the Atlantic Ocean, running north–south, with the North Pole in the small, nearly landlocked basin of the Arctic Ocean. The Drake passage opened 33.9 million years ago (the Eocene-Oligocene transition), severing Antarctica from South America. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current could then flow through it, isolating Antarctica from warm waters and triggering the formation of its huge ice sheets. The Isthmus of Panama developed at a convergent plate margin about 2.6 million years ago, and further separated oceanic circulation, closing the last strait, outside the polar regions, that had connected the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. [17] This increased poleward salt and heat transport, strengthening the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation, which supplied enough moisture to arctic latitudes to create the northern glaciation. [18]

Rise of mountains Edit

The elevation of continents surface, often in the form of mountain formation, is thought to have contributed to cause the Quaternary glaciation. Modern glaciers correlate often to mountainous areas. The gradual movement of the bulk of Earth's landmasses away from the Tropics in conjection with increased mountain formation in the Late Cenozoic meant more surfaces at high altitude and latitudes favouring the formation of glaciers. [19] For example, the Greenland Ice Sheet formed in connection to the uplift of the West Greenland and East Greenland uplands. The Western and Eastern Greenland mountains constitute passive continental margins that were uplifted in two phases, 10 and 5 million years ago, in the Miocene epoch. [20] Computer modelling shows that the uplift would have enabled glaciation by producing increased orographic precipitation and cooling the surface temperatures. [20] For the Andes it is known that the Principal Cordillera had risen to heights that allowed for the development of valley glaciers about 1 million years ago. [21]

The presence of so much ice upon the continents had a profound effect upon almost every aspect of Earth's hydrologic system. The most obvious effects are the spectacular mountain scenery and other continental landscapes fashioned both by glacial erosion and deposition instead of running water. Entirely new landscapes covering millions of square kilometers were formed in a relatively short period of geologic time. In addition, the vast bodies of glacial ice affected Earth well beyond the glacier margins. Directly or indirectly, the effects of glaciation were felt in every part of the world.

Lakes Edit

The Quaternary glaciation created more lakes than all other geologic processes combined. The reason is that a continental glacier completely disrupts the preglacial drainage system. The surface over which the glacier moved was scoured and eroded by the ice, leaving many closed, undrained depressions in the bedrock. These depressions filled with water and became lakes.

Very large lakes were created along the glacial margins. The ice on both North America and Europe was about 3,000 m (10,000 ft) thick near the centers of maximum accumulation, but it tapered toward the glacier margins. Ice weight caused crustal subsidence, which was greatest beneath the thickest accumulation of ice. As the ice melted, rebound of the crust lagged behind, producing a regional slope toward the ice. This slope formed basins that have lasted for thousands of years. These basins became lakes or were invaded by the ocean. The Baltic Sea [22] [23] and the Great Lakes of North America [24] were formed primarily in this way. [ dubious – discuss ]

The numerous lakes of the Canadian Shield, Sweden, and Finland are thought to have originated at least partly from glaciers' selective erosion of weathered bedrock. [25] [26]

Pluvial lakes Edit

The climatic conditions that cause glaciation had an indirect effect on arid and semiarid regions far removed from the large ice sheets. The increased precipitation that fed the glaciers also increased the runoff of major rivers and intermittent streams, resulting in the growth and development of large pluvial lakes. Most pluvial lakes developed in relatively arid regions where there typically was insufficient rain to establish a drainage system leading to the sea. Instead, stream runoff flowed into closed basins and formed playa lakes. With increased rainfall, the playa lakes enlarged and overflowed. Pluvial lakes were most extensive during glacial periods. During interglacial stages, with less rain, the pluvial lakes shrank to form small salt flats.

Isostatic adjustment Edit

Major isostatic adjustments of the lithosphere during the Quaternary glaciation were caused by the weight of the ice, which depressed the continents. In Canada, a large area around Hudson Bay was depressed below (modern) sea level, as was the area in Europe around the Baltic Sea. The land has been rebounding from these depressions since the ice melted. Some of these isostatic movements triggered large earthquakes in Scandinavia about 9,000 years ago. These earthquakes are unique in that they are not associated with plate tectonics.

Studies have shown that the uplift has taken place in two distinct stages. The initial uplift following deglaciation was rapid (called "elastic"), and took place as the ice was being unloaded. After this "elastic" phase, uplift proceed by "slow viscous flow" so the rate decreased exponentially after that. Today, typical uplift rates are of the order of 1 cm per year or less. In northern Europe, this is clearly shown by the GPS data obtained by the BIFROST GPS network. [27] Studies suggest that rebound will continue for about at least another 10,000 years. The total uplift from the end of deglaciation depends on the local ice load and could be several hundred meters near the center of rebound.

Winds Edit

The presence of ice over so much of the continents greatly modified patterns of atmospheric circulation. Winds near the glacial margins were strong and persistent because of the abundance of dense, cold air coming off the glacier fields. These winds picked up and transported large quantities of loose, fine-grained sediment brought down by the glaciers. This dust accumulated as loess (wind-blown silt), forming irregular blankets over much of the Missouri River valley, central Europe, and northern China.

Sand dunes were much more widespread and active in many areas during the early Quaternary period. A good example is the Sand Hills region in Nebraska, USA, which covers an area of about 60,000 km 2 (23,166 sq mi). [28] This region was a large, active dune field during the Pleistocene epoch, but today is largely stabilized by grass cover. [29] [30]

Ocean currents Edit

Thick glaciers were heavy enough to reach the sea bottom in several important areas, thus blocking the passage of ocean water and thereby affecting ocean currents. In addition to direct effects, this caused feedback effects as ocean currents contribute to global heat transfer.

Gold deposits Edit

Moraines and till deposited by Quaternary glaciers have contributed to the formation of valuable placer deposits of gold. This is the case of southernmost Chile where reworking of Quaternary moraines have concentrated gold offshore. [31]

Glaciation has been a rare event in Earth's history, [32] but there is evidence of widespread glaciation during the late Paleozoic Era (300 to 200 Ma) and the late Precambrian (i.e. the Neoproterozoic Era, 800 to 600 Ma). [33] Before the current ice age, which began 2 to 3 Ma, Earth's climate was typically mild and uniform for long periods of time. This climatic history is implied by the types of fossil plants and animals and by the characteristics of sediments preserved in the stratigraphic record. [34] There are, however, widespread glacial deposits, recording several major periods of ancient glaciation in various parts of the geologic record. Such evidence suggests major periods of glaciation prior to the current Quaternary glaciation.

One of the best documented records of pre-Quaternary glaciation, called the Karoo Ice Age, is found in the late Paleozoic rocks in South Africa, India, South America, Antarctica, and Australia. Exposures of ancient glacial deposits are numerous in these areas. Deposits of even older glacial sediment exist on every continent except South America. These indicate that two other periods of widespread glaciation occurred during the late Precambrian, producing the Snowball Earth during the Cryogenian Period. [35]

The warming trend following the Last Glacial Maximum, since about 20,000 years ago, has resulted in a sea level rise by about 130 metres (427 ft). This warming trend subsided about 6,000 years ago, and sea level has been comparatively stable since the Neolithic. The present interglacial period (the Holocene climatic optimum) has been fairly stable and warm, but the previous one was interrupted by numerous cold spells lasting hundreds of years. If the previous period was more typical than the present one, the period of stable climate, which allowed the Neolithic Revolution and by extension human civilization, may have been possible only because of a highly unusual period of stable temperature. [36]

Based on orbital models, the cooling trend initiated about 6,000 years ago will continue for another 23,000 years. [37] Slight changes in the Earth's orbital parameters may, however, indicate that, even without any human contribution, there will not be another glacial period for the next 50,000 years. [38] It is possible that the current cooling trend may be interrupted by an interstadial (a warmer period) in about 60,000 years, with the next glacial maximum reached only in about 100,000 years. [39]

Based on past estimates for interglacial durations of about 10,000 years, in the 1970s there was some concern that the next glacial period would be imminent. However, slight changes in the eccentricity of Earth's orbit around the Sun suggest a lengthy interglacial lasting about another 50,000 years. [40] Additionally, human impact is now seen as possibly extending what would already be an unusually long warm period. Projection of the timeline for the next glacial maximum depend crucially on the amount of CO
2 in the atmosphere. Models assuming increased CO
2 levels at 750 parts per million (ppm current levels are at 407 ppm [41] ) have estimated the persistence of the current interglacial period for another 50,000 years. [42] However, more recent studies concluded that the amount of heat trapping gases emitted into Earth's oceans and atmosphere will prevent the next glacial (ice age), which otherwise would begin in around 50,000 years, and likely more glacial cycles. [43] [44]


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