Dr. Miguel Roth Receives Chile's Highest Civilian Honor for Non-Chilean

Published : Monday, December 17, 2018 | 5:50 AM

Dr. Miguel Roth, who represents the Pasadena-based Giant Magellan Telescope Organization in Chile, was awarded the Bernardo O’Higgins Order by the Chilean Foreign Affairs Ministry in Santiago, Chile Friday.

The honor is in recognition of Roth’s contribution to the “development of astronomy in Chile, and for inspiring appreciation and knowledge of astronomy among students and people of all ages,” a statement from the Carnegie Institution for Science said.

Roth was director of Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile from 1990 up to 2014, when he retired and began work with the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) as Legal Representative in Chile. The observatory is a sister observatory of Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena.

The Order of Bernardo O’Higgins, the highest civilian honor for non-Chileans, is named after one of the founders of the Chilean Republic, General Bernardo O’Higgins. It was established in 965 to recognize “achievements in the field of arts, sciences, education, industry, trade, humanitarian and social cooperation.”

Roth was director of the National Astronomical Observatory at San Pedro Mártir in Baja California, Mexico, before his tenure as director of Carnegie’s Las Campanas in Chile. When the 6.5-meter twin Magellan telescopes were planned, constructed, and began operations in 2001 and 2002, Roth, as a Carnegie scientist, oversaw the construction and operations, with Las Campanas Observatory hosting the site.

The twin telescopes have been extremely important to advancing astronomy, and were used to find the most distant black hole yet, as well as the first spectrum of a neutron star-neutron star merger.

“During his many years of service, Miguel has been heavily involved in public outreach and connecting the community to the joys of astronomy,” Carnegie Observatories director John Mulchaey said in the statement. “It began with the Andes-Carnegie Summer School for young students and has continued with more recent activities, such as an astronomy mobile laboratory. Astronomy is a very important connection that we have with the Chileans, and Miguel cannot be more deserving of this distinction.”

The future 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope is also being hosted on Las Campanas.

As GMTO’s Legal Representative in Chile, Roth structured an agreement between GMTO and Chile that provides for access to observing time on the GMT by astronomers in Chile. He has also worked with the government, industry, and the other international observatories to ensure that the clear skies of Chile remain dark at night, preserving one of Chile’s greatest natural treasures.

“Miguel is a force in the Chilean astronomical community, and this exceptional award recognizes his unique contributions to astronomy in Chile,” Dr. Robert N. Shelton, President of GMTO, said. “Miguel is GMTO’s face in Latin America and we are fortunate to have him as our representative and spokesperson in Chile.”

Roth earned a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chile. His interest was in instrumentation, which led him to astronomy. He has studied observational astronomy, including star formation and the early evolution of stars and planetary nebula.

More recently, he has also participated in the Carnegie Supernova Project.


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