Fotoeins Fotografie

faces of home & place-story

Posts tagged ‘telescope’

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 Andes: morning send-off with Atacama minions

Above/featured: Morning fog in the valleys below, facing north-northeast from Cerro Tololo Observatory – 9am CLDT (12pm UTC), 22 Sept 2011.

Late-2011: Cerro Tololo Observatory, Región de Coquimbo, Chile.

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 )

Where I work

Winter can be a frustrating time at an astronomical observatory with the presence of dark threatening clouds, freezing temperatures, high humidity, blustery winds, and blowing snow.

With a month remaining in the Chilean southern winter and the forecast for clearing skies, the nighttime-observing crew arrived tonight (28 Aug 2011) at the Cerro Pach贸n summit with the following view towards the Andean spine to the east, and the setting sun behind us to the west.

Cerro Pachon, Chile
View from Cerro Pach贸n, Chile – 28 August 2011.

This photo was taken at an altitude of about 2700 metres (8860 feet) above sea-level.

The dome-shadow at lower-centre is Gemini Observatory (South); I stood in its shadow at the edge of the ridge where I made this photograph. The dome-shadow at the lower-left is the SOAR Telescope.

You can compare the photo above with the following photo I made 5 weeks ago, one minute after sunset …

Cerro Pachon, Chile
View from Cerro Pach贸n, Chile – 24 July 2011.

The view sure is pretty up here.

At the centre of the photo above, the background ‘peak’ marked by the red pin (in the Google map below) is 4450 metres high (14600 feet) with a line-of-sight distance of 32 km (20 miles) to the east southeast (heading 96 degrees). Over to the right of the photo, the foreground ‘peak’ marked by the green pin is 4340 metres high (14200 feet) with a line-of-sight distance 19 km (12 miles) to the east southeast (heading 106 degrees). The location of Cerro Pach贸n is marked by the blue pin below.

After 15 years in the business, it’s a little difficult to imagine (but getting easier to accept) that I’m packing it in by the end of this year for something new and different.

This post was published originally on Fotoeins Fotopress (fotoeins.com).

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