The Body Of A Missing British Astronomer, Thomas Marsh, Has Been Found In Chile Near A Space Telescope


On Thursday, a specialized unit of Chilean police discovered the body of British astronomer Thomas Marsh, 61, who had been missing for 55 days in the Atacama Desert. The cause of death is yet unknown.

The body was discovered near La Silla Observatory in the Coquimbo region of northern Chile, known for its clear skies and abundance of observatories.

Marsh, a professor at Warwick University, had arrived at the site as a visiting scholar on September 14. He’d planned to remain four nights, but he was last seen on the 16th. Continued search attempts have yielded no results since then.

Carabineros, Chile’s national police, reported finding the body shortly before noon Thursday among a pile of rocks near La Silla.

“After an intense search by the Carabineros’ multidisciplinary team, Gope (a specialized unit) found the lifeless body of the astronomer missing since September 16. We lament giving this sad news and extend our condolences to his family and friends,” said the law enforcement agency in a Twitter post.

“From the very beginning, we made all our human and logistical resources available to collaborate with the investigation and provide answers to the family of the missing person,” said the head of the 4th Carabineros Zone, General Juan Muñoz.

After discovering the academic’s cell phone and some of his clothes in the vicinity, local officials prolonged the search until November 15. The body found on Thursday was naked from the waist up.

Odette Toloza, a Marsh colleague in Germany, reported in September that Marsh had gone to Chile for four nights of observations and that he knew “the terrain very well.” According to prosecutor Adrián Vega, one of the investigation’s hypotheses is that the British researcher went “trekking.”

Vega stated on September 26 that the area was being combed with several sorts of technology, namely drones, satellite photos, and personnel on the ground. He further mentioned that the affected region is approximately 2,000 hectares in size.

Marsh’s family traveled to Chile a few weeks ago to assist with the search. In addition, the Coquimbo Prosecutor’s Office issued a sincere appeal to the local public to help with the investigation in a video published in late October. “Please help us in locating him. “You, the people who may have seen him, are the best resource we have,” his son added.

His daughter made a similar plea to the people of La Higuera. In this town, the observatory is located: “Try to become familiar with my father’s face, remember him, and look for him wherever you go.” Also, please let us know if you see or have seen him. Just one person would be enough.”

Aside from stating that Marsh was delighted to return to one of the world’s top observatories, where he had previously worked and lectured, his wife said they still hoped to find him alive.

The university’s provost, Christine Ennew, said, “This is deeply distressing news for Tom’s family; our sympathies are with them, as well as his colleagues and our larger community.”

“I know what a terrible time this is for the colleagues who knew Tom and counted him as a close friend and inspirational academic and mentor.”


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