‘Deep concern’ for Brit planet-hunter who vanished in remote Chilean desert

Relatives of a missing British space expert say they are "deeply concerned” for his welfare.

University of Warwick astronomer Professor Tom Marsh, was visiting the remote La Silla Observatory in central Chile when he was last seen a week ago on the edge of the Atacama desert.

Officials in Chile are using specialist equipment in the search for the 60-year-old “keen walker” from Rugby, Warwickshire, including drones and involving volunteers from a local flight club.

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However due to the difficult terrain, the search can are only take place during daylight hours.

In an Instagram post, his daughter Tabitha said the family was "desperate" to track him down.

"He was out on an observing run at the La Silla Observatory in Chile when he went missing,” she wrote.

"The closest town is La Serena. If anyone has any information or thinks they can help in any way, please contact the police…. Thank you.

"My family, and my dad's friends and colleagues, would be beyond grateful for any help or information."

The professor is described as white, approximately 6ft 3ins tall, with balding grey hair and a beard. He is believed to have been wearing a blue rain jacket, walking boots and a grey woollen hat when he went missing.

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His University of Warwick, Professor Chris Ennew, said: "Local emergency services are undertaking a thorough and extensive search.

"We continue to hope for a successful outcome”.

La Silla is deliberately located in a remote area, far from sources of light pollution and it has one of the darkest night skies on the Earth.

The observatory is home to the world’s leading alien planet hunter, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS).

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Criminal investigators from Chile PDI's police have been drafted in to discover if the disappearance could be linked to a crime.

Local PDI police chief Carlos Albornoz said: “Search work is being done on the ground and interviews and statements are being taken.

“Other organisations are also involved in the operation to try to establish as quickly as possible where this person is.

“Nothing is being ruled out, and all lines of inquiry remain open.”


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