In the early hours of September 17, Thomas Marsh (60), an astronomer at the University of Warwick in England, who was on a scientific research trip at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, was reported missing. According to the same institution where he was staying, he was last seen last Friday. For this reason, at 07:00 on Saturday, the authorities in the area launched an operation to find his whereabouts.
According to the local newspaper La Región, the disappearance was reported an hour earlier, at about 6 in the morning. One of her colleagues, Odette Toloza, in a contact from Germany with Mega’s morning, said that a student notified them of Marsh’s disappearance. “The last time they had contact was the day before when they said goodbye to go to bed.. The next day she expected to see him because they would have breakfast together and she didn’t show up.”
The La Silla Observatory made a call to report any trace or background on Marsh’s whereabouts. According to institution information, she is likely wearing a blue jacket, hiking boots, and a gray knit cap, clothes she was wearing the last time she was seen. Likewise, her daughter asked for help through social networks, where she published a photograph with a message: “This is my father, Tom Marsh. He has been missing in Chile since September 16, almost a week. Please share this, we are desperate to find him.” He added: “My family and my dad’s friends and colleagues will be more than grateful for any help or information. Even if you don’t think you can do something, please share this. Someone you know might be in a position to help us.”
Marsh is a British astronomer and astrophysicist at the University of Warwick, where he joined the Astronomy and Astrophysics group in 2003. His main research interests are the accumulation and evolution of binary stars. Also his professional interest is in observation techniques, in order to better study his objects.
On the page of University of WarwickMarsh, maintains that his “main projects in recent years have been the use and exploitation of ULTRACAM and HiPERCAM, which are high-speed multiband CCD imagers” and that his work “touches the area of gravitational waves, that the objects he studied are believed to be among the strongest emitters for the proposed space-based GRW detector, LISA.”
In this context, he arrived at La Silla last September 14, where he was as visiting astronomer, that is, he had applied for a time of observation in a telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO, for its acronym in English), in this case in the New Technology Telescope (NTT). This had been given to him to use on the nights between the 16th and 20th of this month.
“Tom has been to La Silla several times. He knows the terrain very well and this time he had to make observations for four nights. It is unfortunate news that has hit the entire community of astronomers hard, especially in the field where we worked with Tom”, says Toloza.
From the university, upon learning of the disappearance of the astronomer and professor, they maintained that “we are doing everything possible to support his search and we are in regular contact with Tom’s family to offer him our support and assistance (…). Our multi-faith chaplaincy is available to people of all faiths or none to offer a quiet place to reflect and take stock.”
The La Silla Observatory is located on the edge of the Atacama desert -Coquimbo region- at an altitude of 2,400 meters. It is a space that has eighteen telescopes, five of them built directly by the European Southern Observatory organization, while others are maintained in part by ESO. Its location has made the search complex, since it is in a foothill area that is difficult to access.
As indicated by the uniformed police, there are 35 carabineros in the area and the strategy continues to be that carried out by the GOPE with ground tracking, in addition to overflights of the hills by the aeropolice section.
In this context, the lieutenant colonel of the Prefecture of Carabineros de Coquimbo, Francisco Aravena, affirms to La Tercera PM that “there are GOPE personnel, aeropolice officers and we also have drones and dogs. Coordination with the regional Onemi and a military unit has been required in order to support the search. Currently, there are police officers, PDI and Army personnel looking for the professor, given the vast and complex nature of the sector, since we are in the foothills.”
This Friday marks a week since the search began and there are still no clues from the British scientist. “We will continue to be deployed until the Public Ministry deems it necessary. There is coordinated work with the Presidential Delegation and with various institutions to add human and material resources in the search for this person.”
Prefect Carlos Albornoz, head of the Elqui Provincial Prefecture, maintains that “the PDI is carrying out investigations on the ground, mainly interviews, taking statements and visual inspections at the scene of the events in order to promptly establish the whereabouts of this person.”
He also adds that for now there is no theory: “Pertinent coordination is being carried out with the Public Ministry in order to collect all the evidence that has to be analyzed to find his whereabouts. At the moment no hypothesis is ruled out, all lines of investigation are open. Yes indeed, the work that is done in the field has the purpose of locating it as soon as possible”.