Two teachers from the town of San Pedro de Atacama, in the northern desert of the South American nation of Chile, arrive in Magdalena, New Mexico, Sunday, January 28, for a two-week visit that is part of a Sister Cities program sponsored by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), the nonprofit research corporation that operates the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). They will be accompanied by their town’s mayor.
Myriam Nancy Rivera Mercado, Head of the high school in San Pedro, Gabriela Fernanda Rodriguez Moraleda, a tourism teacher there, and San Pedro Mayor Sandra Berna Martinez will begin a visit that includes classroom observations in the Magdalena schools, a reception hosted by the Magdalena Village Council, and a Mayor’s Breakfast with Magdalena Mayor Jim Wolfe. They also will meet local residents, tour the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge with a second-grade class, visit an area ranch, tour the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope, and see Socorro’s Community Arts Party.
“These teachers will learn much about New Mexico, the United States, and our educational system, and will take this new knowledge back to their students and their community,” said NRAO Education Officer Robyn Harrison.
The visit is part of a Sister Cities program initiated and funded by AUI, which operates the NRAO for the U.S. National Science Foundation. Radio astronomy is a common link between San Pedro de Atacama and Magdalena. San Pedro is near the site of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international telescope project now under construction with funding by major partners in North America, Europe, and Japan. Magdalena is near the site of NRAO’s VLA radio telescope.
In Magdalena, the Village Council and Mayor Wolfe formalized their participation in the Sister Cities program last September, and San Pedro ratified the program in December. In San Pedro, the ceremony ratifying the agreement was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Chile Craig K. Kelly.
The Chilean teachers are visiting Magdalena while they are on their Southern Hemisphere summer vacation, and Magdalena’s schools are in session. Two Magdalena teachers, Joleen Welborn and Sandra Montoya, will visit San Pedro in June, while they are on summer vacation and the Chilean schools will be in session.
Dr. Eduardo Hardy, the AUI/NRAO representative in Chile, will accompany the Chilean teachers on their visit, which has been coordinated by Harrison.
“ALMA is a groundbreaking example of the type of international cooperation that marks the future of astronomy. We are especially pleased to sponsor a program that brings together two communities that both enjoy proximity to world-class astronomical research facilities,” said Dr. Fred K.Y. Lo, NRAO Director.
“While separated by many miles, San Pedro de Atacama and Magdalena have much in common. Both are small communities in high desert environments, and both are next to telescopes where the world’s astronomers will be making many exciting discoveries in the coming decades. Bringing these two communities together will advance education and international understanding,” Harrison said.