Astronomers Search For Life From Sterile Desert

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When Hollywood director Marc Forster chose Chile’s Atacama Desert as a backdrop for his James Bond film Quantum of Solace, he did so, he said, because its sterile, unforgiving landscape reflected Bond’s stony, emotionless character.

And yet, amid the lifeless rocks and sand of the Atacama, two gigantic projects are under way that are all about life: on planets other than our own.

The first is the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (Alma), soon to be the most powerful network of radio telescopes in the world.