Above/featured: Ruta 5 (highway 5), a ribbon-like cut through the desert in Región de Atacama, Chile – 24 Nov 2009 (450D).
It’s an interesting question: how does one consider, view, or photograph what’s under the sun? There’s a lot of room for interpretation. Modifying the theme for the desert sun, I examine the “quality of sunlight” within the Atacama Desert in northern and north-central Chile, and within the Sonoran Desert in southwest United States.
Chile is known for a great place to set up telescopes because (a) the Andes provide many mountain candidates; (b) the mountains are for the most part far from cities and their “light pollution” at night; (c) onshore winds from the Pacific flow in laminar fashion in many places over the Andes, providing good stable viewing conditions; and (d) there’s ample support and infrastructure. An extra bonus is the extent of the Atacama desert, providing potentially low water vapour and favourable conditions for observations in the thermal infrared.
The first time I visited Chile was in 1995, as a visiting astronomer to a 60-cm telescope managed and operated by the University of Toronto. I returned to various other observatories in Chile several times in the following ten years, and because of the stark impressive beauty of mountains and desert, I viewed each trip as my last. How was I to know I’d spend 5 years in Chile, beginning in 2006, and a “regular” at the summits of two mountains.
Dates: 2007, 2009, 2010.
Location1: Cerro Tololo with elevation 2207 m / 7241 ft, at -30.168969, -70.806341 (30.168969 South, 70.806341 West)
Location2: Cerro Pachón with elevation 2715 m / 8907 ft, at -30.240736, -70.736578 (30.240736 South, 70.736578 West).
My colleagues and I flew out from La Serena to Antofagasta for a visit to the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope facility (ESO VLT) at the summit of Cerro Paranal. It’s warm on this late-spring day in November, and dust blows across the highway in brisk winds on our drive through the Atacama desert. It’s very dry in this part of the world; stories are told about how some of the weather gauges placed in the desert go back decades having recorded zero precipitation.
Date: 24-25 November 2009.
Location: Cerro Paranal with elevation 2635 m / 8645 ft, at -24.627088, -70.403982 (24.627088 South, 70.403982 West).
Towards the final stage of our two-week drive within the American Southwest, we headed south from Flagstaff to Tucson where we stayed for a couple of days. A highlight was the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum whose flora and fauna exhibits are available inside and outside, much of it representative of the surrounding Sonoran Desert. Returning to Tucson was a reminder of previous visits to the observatory at Kitt Peak.
Date: 18 October 2018.
Location: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum with elevation 870 m / 2854 ft, at 32.244085, -111.168191 (32.244085 North, 111.168191 West).
I made all images above within the Canon family: PowerShot A510 (A510), EOS450D/Rebel XSi (450D), and EOS6D mark1 (6D1). Acknowledgements go to Amy for LAPC no. 109 in the week of 8-14 Aug 2020. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins DOT com as https://wp.me/p1BIdT-iGR.