crackspackle writes "The Atacama desert region, a vast expanse of land stretching 600 miles along the Pacific coast of South America from Peru to Chile, is known as the driest region on earth, receiving only .04 inches (1mm) of rain per year. Many weather stations located in the region have no recorded precipitation during their existence. Sterile from the lack of rainfall, sparsely inhabited, and virtually free from electromagnetic interference, the desert hosts several major astronomical observatories. This other-worldly location is also popular among sci-fi film makers, and is a prominent test site for NASA's planned Mars mission. This week, the Atacama received 32 inches of snow, stranding motorists along the Pan-American highway and other roads, prompting numerous rescues. Footage of the snow is available on the BBC."