Where is Atacama Desert?

The Atacama Desert is situated in South America, spanning across a 1,600 km strip of land on the Pacific coast. This desert plateau is situated west of the Andes Mountains. It is the world’s driest nonpolar desert. It mostly consists of salt lakes, stony terrains, sand and felsic lava that flows towards the Andes.

Why is the Atacama Desert in News?

The ALMA telescope located in the Atacama Desert is to be upgraded. The Collector and supercomputer units in the telescope will be replaced with new ones. This is being done to increase the speed of operation of the telescope.

Why is the ALMA telescope placed in the Atacama desert?

The Atacama Desert is the only hot true desert in the world to receive less precipitation than the polar desert. It is the driest place on Earth, with the majority of nights being clear of clouds and free from light-distorting moisture. Hence, it is used as an experimentation site for Mars exploration missions. The ALMA telescope records waves that are in the range of millimetres. Even the water vapour in the atmosphere could disrupt the waves. This is why the ALMA telescope is placed in the Atacama desert which receives almost zero rainfall.

Dark Microbiome in Atacama desert

Recently, DNA samples discovered from this desert included genetic fragments of a ‘dark microbiome’ i.e. organisms still unknown to science. Dark biomes cannot be cultured in laboratories. Because; the knowledge about these organisms is very minimal. Also, the laboratories cannot provide the required growth conditions for these organisms.

Microbiomes are genetic materials of microbes. They are found in bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and bacteria.

Why is the Atacama Desert dry?

The desert is extremely arid because of the Humboldt ocean current. The Atacama desert is located between the mountain chains Andes and the Chilean coast Range.




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