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Explore Alliance Ambassadors - Alain Maury


Explore Alliance Ambassador - Alain Maury
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
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Alain Maury started as an amateur astronomer at the age of 15. Some 45 years ago 😊.

As an amateur he founded one astronomy club and participated to many outreach events. He studied photography and became photographic scientist in observatories, way back when photography was still chemical. He worked 4 years as a photographic scientist for the second Palomar Observatory sky survey, and at this epoch he met a young salesperson who was working at OPT, very active in outreach, who later worked in other companies, before he founded his own. He became interested in asteroids and comets.

He has discovered a few Earth Crossing asteroids on his own and 2 comets, and was part of a project (ODAS) which discovered 2200 asteroids in the late 90s, using a CCD camera on a 36 inch Schmidt telescope in southern France.

Since 2003, after working 3 years at ESO La Silla as an engineer, he founded a public observatory in San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile. Sweet home, Atacama, where the skies are so blue... San Pedro de Atacama is the most visited place in Chile with about 350000 tourists/year. Today SPACE (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations) receives between 15000 to 18000 persons per year, and has 12 employees. Since 2013, other agencies started to offer astronomical tours in San Pedro and now there are more than 50 agencies offering astronomical tours. Alain is president of the astrotourism association of San Pedro.

SPACE is not only a sky discovery tour agency, it owns lodges where many amateurs from all over the world come at the new moon to observe, visually, or photographically. SPACE also hosts a dozen robotic telescopes at their observatory facility, with many discoveries: two comets; several asteroids; photometry of a huge number of variable stars and comets. The photometry made at the SPACE observatory facility revealed that Proxima Centauri had a planet in the habitable zone with one of the robotic telescopes.

Alain has built most of the telescopes used at SPACE during the tours, which have diameters between 8 to 45 inches. The 45 inch telescope recently finished gives very impressive images of the southern sky objects.

After a long period of interruption, Alain is going back to asteroid survey, using wide field telescopes, very powerful computers and new detection techniques (synthetic tracking) in collaboration with a few friends, one in the US the other in France. Thanks to the internet allowing such interesting collaborations.

Alain often participates in a large European program observing occultations of transneptunian and centaur asteroids, and his observations have been fundamental to show that Eris was slightly smaller than Pluto.

When not doing astronomy, Alain enjoys listening to music, playing music, and travelling. In the last years, with his wife he traveled to many places in the southern hemisphere (Tuamotus, Galapagos, Patagonia, Antarctica…) and had the kick of his life doing a zero G flight in the USA.

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