The vicuña and the antenna

High upon the Chajnantor Plateau, a solitary vicuña — a relative of llamas, alpacas and camels — stands before the APEX antenna.

Both the animal and the antenna are well-equipped to handle the harshness of their remote and arid environment. At Chajnantor, some 5000 metres above sea level, temperatures can get fairly warm during the day, thanks to the intense sunlight beaming through the thin atmosphere. However, at night, the mercury plunges.

Engineers built the antenna of APEX to withstand the harsh weather, carefully crafting them to endure relentless sunlight, strong winds, and severe temperature changes ranging from +20 to -20 degrees Celsius.

The hardy vicuña, meanwhile, with its thick, wooly coat that traps hot air close to its body, can also handle nature’s quirks. The species, only found at high altitudes in the Andes Mountains, grazes on the tough grasses found across the otherwise barren slopes. Although the Chajnantor region is one of the driest places on the planet, at times the temperature swings can even bring snow to the plateau, an occurrence that the vicuña in this image is investigating!


Jaime Guarda/ESO

About the Image

Release date:30 May 2016, 06:00
Size:3456 x 5184 px

About the Object

Name:Atacama Desert, Atacama Pathfinder Experiment
Type:Unspecified : Technology : Observatory : Telescope

Image Formats

Large JPEG
4.9 MB
Screensize JPEG
631.2 KB


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