I read recently a quote which spoke to me in my current situation:
Nothing awakens in the traveler a livelier remembrance of the immense distance by which he is separated from his country than the aspect of an unknown firmament.
– Alexander von Humboldt
Humboldt was an accomplished astronomer (among other disciplines in which he was great) and, so, when he traveled to South America in 1799 the change in the firmament (sky) was both a source of wonder and loss. I have identified with both feelings as I have contemplated the sky in my time here. Perhaps you do not know the stars as well as Humboldt or even as well as myself. However, if you have traveled abroad in the northern hemisphere, you have likely had the same feeling of distance given by the firmament. For is there a greater signal of distance than calling someone at what you believe a reasonable hour only to awaken them in the middle of the night?
I write this contemplating a post on my trip to SpaceObs outside San Pedro de Atacama last month. I have written a little about it but not as extensively as some of my earlier astronomy related trips. You can read about them here, here, here, here, here, and here (the best one). The last one is the best and has lots of pictures and explanations of stuff in the sky.
My friend Steve and I traveled to the Atacama desert to see the southern stars. We stayed at SpaceObs, a fine lodge, and rented a 20 inch dobsonian reflector. Steve has built two big Dobs in his day and wasn’t terribly impressed with the mechanics of the rental but the optics were excellent and we had many fine views. You can read a short synopsis of our trip here: Loo With A View.
I promised pictures when I had them and was more coherent. Can’t make any promises on that last but I do now have some. So, here they are.
The sky from San Pedro is outstanding and I would recommend the Atacama to anyone but especially those interested in the heavens. Just be prepared for how unbelievably dry it is. Like really, really, really dry. Take moisturizer.
The author, looking for the Holy Grail. Or a glass of water. (Steve took this one).
Formation called “Tres Marias” in Valle de la Luna. Scholars believe extreme dehydration was involved in the naming of this feature.
Licancabur volcano at sunset from the lodge (Steve took this one).
Balloons over the salt lakes south of San Pedro. (Steve took this one).
Crux and Musca with the Doodad Nebula at bottom. Imaged with 50mm lens.
Eta Carinae nebula imaged with 200mm lens.
Licancabur volcano with 50mm lens.
Salt in the Valle de la Luna. We did a flame test on the white substance. Definitely sodium.
Dune in Valle de la Luna.
Steve contemplating a swim.
Rho Ophiuchi complex, M4 and Antares with 200mm lens.
Scorpius with 35mm lens.