Fotoeins Fotografie

questions of place & home

Posts tagged ‘Andes’

Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory, Cerro Tololo, Region de Coquimbo, Chile, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: Andes in winter, a June day in Chile

23 June 2007.

A few days past the June winter solstice, the view to the Andes is illuminated by the afternoon sun to the northwest. It’s almost one year since I’ve moved to Chile to work at the Gemini South astronomical observatory, and part of my job includes shifts observing at the telescope for a duration between two and six nights at a stretch. For the time being, we’re sleeping in the dormitories at the neighbouring Cerro Tololo Observatory, and driving to and from Cerro Pachón where Gemini South resides. With less oxygen at altitude between 2500 and 2800 metres, it can be a little rough to sleep and work, but the views are always worth the temporary discomfort.

More about my past life

•   What it was like to be “up top”
•   What it meant to leave, both astronomy and Chile
•   My past research


I made the above photo 10 years ago today on 23 June 2007. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-9To.

Chilean Andes, Cerro Tololo, Cerro Pach贸n, astronomical observatories, Chile, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: Chile from 10000 feet, summer light on the Andes

20 February 2006.

With the light of the setting summer sun striking the foothills and the mountains in the Chilean Andes, this was the view east outside the plane from about 10000 feet (3000 metres) prior to approach and descent to LSC La Serena airport. This place was already familiar: I’d been coming here for astronomy research semi-regularly over the last ten years (since 1995), and it’s where I would live for the next five years (to 2011). It’s a fascinating individual experience to internalize the day-to-day surroundings which eventually become routine over a period of weeks, months, and years. On occasion, I still have difficulty grasping my own history.

At a latitude of 30 degrees south, the area shown here is near the southern limit of the Atacama desert in Región de Coquimbo. A group of white domes (telescopes) is clustered at the summit of Cerro Tololo (centre-left); the domes for the SOAR Telescope and Gemini South sit along the ridge of Cerro Pachón (centre-right). The mail-drop or “buzón” for the observatories is at the bottom of the ridge where the unpaved graded dirt road splits to Tololo and Pachón. To the east in the background are the north-south spine or ‘cord’ (Cordillera) marked by the Andes mountain range, and towering thunderstorms looming over the Argentina-Chile border. Directions to the nearest cities are marked: Vicuña (north), La Serena (northwest), Andacollo (west), and Ovalle (southwest).

I made the photo above with a Canon Powershot A510 camera on-board the LAN 1-hour flight from Santiago to La Serena. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-6Rq.

Southern Atacama desert, between Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachon, Region de Coquimbo, Chile, fotoeins.com

Standing on the tall shoulders of the Chilean Andes

It’s a long road to a latitude of 30 degrees South to stand at an elevation of 9000 feet up on the mountainous spine of South America.

Over a period of 11 years, I visited telescopes in Chile to collect research data, before I moved to Chile to live and work there for 5 years. This is a brief look at the journey an astronomer makes to telescopes in Chile.

( Click here for images and more )

Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory, CTIO, Cerro Tololo, Regi贸n de Coquimbo, Chile, fotoeins.com

Chilean morning send-off: under the Andes with Atacama minions

Cerro Tololo, Región de Coquimbo, Chile: late-2011.

The morning creeps gently forward, up and over the desert sky. Sounds? What sounds? What scarce sounds there are, they pierce the silence with soft whistles and drawn-out wails. Alternating light and dark horizontal streamers, known also as “the rays of God,” mark the first light of dawn. Small clumps break loose, as the overnight shroud of valley fog pulls back slowly from view.

The sun climbs higher, the shadows grow shorter, the cotton patch dissolves. It isn’t long until a spectacular sight is revealed. This is what you get from a height of 7500 feet above sea level.

Dry river beds twist and sweep and stretch along canyon floors. Cactus and desert scrub carpets the surrounding hills in faded greens and dusty browns. To the east rise jagged rocky teeth capped with white frosting, fixing the location of the Andes along the Chilean spine.

In this desolate and isolated part of the world, I’ve often wondered about the few brave souls who make this place their home. They’re prospectors, miners, even some farmers, all of whom carry their burden for financial endeavour. People have been digging around in these parts for centuries, whether it’s plant, mineral, or some kind of monetary paydirt.

But there’s another human enterprise with different rewards, a quest that asks questions on a much larger scale.

How do planets take shape?
How do stars form?
How are galaxies assembled?
Is there life elsewhere in the universe?

These issues occupy astronomers from all over the world. Many astronomers go up onto mountains, just like this one, onto the summit of Cerro Tololo, peering into the skies. The telescopes point straight up, reaching out like outstretched hands, wanting more.

( Click here for images and more )

Cerro Tololo, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, CTIO, Regi贸n de Coquimbo, Chile, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: Asleep at the Atacama view

At the southern edge of the Atacama desert is an arid region in Chile called Norte Chico (“near north”) which includes the administrative regions of Coquimbo and Atacama. From 1996 to 2011, I spent plenty of time in these “foothills” to the Andes, particularly on the mountains Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pach贸n at an altitude of 7500 and 9000-feet, respectively. In any season, the views are unbeatable under clear skies. We’re often reminded we aren’t alone in the desert-mountain landscape, as indicated by the presence of the sleeping “zorro culpeo” (desert- or Andean-fox) in this view facing east. This little guy is no bigger than a shoe box, and despite their wild untamed nature, they’ve figured out where to pick up food left out by the bipeds (re. kitchen staff).

I made the photo above with a Canon Powershot A510 camera on 23 June 2007 at Cerro Tololo. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-57h.

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