Chilean police search for missing British university astronomer

Professor Marsh was working near the Atacama desert when he disappeared (handout for family)

Police in Chile have launched a search for a missing British university astronomy professor who has been missing for six days.

Thomas Marsh, an astrophysicist and astronomer at the University of Warwick, was last seen near an astronomical observatory on the edge of the Atacama Desert where he worked.

His concerned family has called for anyone who may have any information to contact the police.

Professor Marsh, 60, a keen walker who is said to be very familiar with mountainous terrain, was last seen around 6am last Friday.

His clothes and other belongings, including his passport, were reportedly left intact in a rented room nearby.

Police are using specialized equipment, including drones, to carry out the search, and volunteers from a local flying club are flying in to help.

It is understood that criminal investigators were also recruited. Police officers from the PDI, part of Chile’s interior ministry, and the Carabineros national police say they are considering all options.

The head of the local PDI police, Carlos Albornoz, said: “A search job is being done on the ground and statements and interviews are being taken.

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

“Nothing is ruled out and all lines of investigation remain open.”

Professor Marsh’s daughter, Tabitha, posted a missing persons poster on Facebook and wrote: “This is my dad, Tom Marsh. He has been missing in Chile since September 16, almost a week. Please share this, we are desperate to find it…

“I was on an observation run at the La Silla Observatory in Chile when it disappeared. The closest town is La Serena.

“If anyone has ANY information or thinks they can help in ANY way, please contact the police. If you are in the UK, dial 101 and quote the reference: INC 153 9/18/22 Warwickshire Police. If you are outside the UK, please call +44 1926 415000.

“Thank you. My family and my father’s friends and colleagues would be more than grateful for any help or information.

“Even if you think you can’t do anything, share this: someone you know could help us.”

A University of Warwick spokesperson said: “Professor Tom Marsh, founding professor of the astronomy and astrophysics group at the University of Warwick, was reported missing from La Silla Observatory in Chile, where he has recently been working as a visiting astronomer at the ESO (European Southern Observatory).

“Local emergency services are conducting a thorough and extensive search for Tom.

“We are in regular contact with Tom’s family and have offered them our full support, along with his colleagues, students and friends at the university.

“Our thoughts remain with them at this worrying time.”

La Silla Observatory, one of the largest in the southern hemisphere, is about 95 miles from Serena, near the Atacama Desert, one of the driest and most remote places in the world.

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