A couple of hours of semi-clear sky on Saturday night was all I got for my three nights at Hacienda Los Andes. I did do some great hiking, drank juice from oranges I had seen on trees and wrote two final exams. I also found Neptune on their solar system hike.  It took three tries.  Neptune, you see, is far enough away to be on someone else’s property and the trail sort of peters out.

The thing I had dreaded about this trip was the drive home.  Drives home after excellent astronomy trips are fraught with danger as driving while tired is a terrible, no-good thing to do.  No worries on this trip.  I awoke a little before 7am, fresh from almost ten hours of sleep, packed the car, had another excellent breakfast, paid my bill and was on the road, as planned, at 9am.

Fortunately.

I made it to pavement with less than an hour to spare before the rain came.  And then it rained, hard, pretty much the whole way down to Santiago.  No majestic sea vistas on this trip, though the surf was extraordinary. I also saw a lot of flooding, or soon to be flooding.  All the charming little streams coming down out of the mountain to reach the Pacific were, yesterday, raging torrents. In many places, the land was trying to subsume the road and we all dodged and weaved around fairly large rocks in the road.  That lasted from northeast of Ovalle to Ruta 5. I saw a number of villages clearly having, or about to have, serious problems with water.

Oh, Ovalle. If you read my last post and are in the least given to worrying about me, probably finishing with “I wonder if there will be gas” was a less than inspiring ending. Yesterday Chile observed St. Peter and St. Paul day. On occasion, holidays in Chile feature nationwide shutdowns. I’ve written before about how that probably is how a revered holiday should be celebrated.  And, yet, there are schmucks like me trying to drive 300 miles in the rain.  I could use some gas.  (Honestly, I did the math before leaving and I had enough to reach Santiago.  Just.)

Never fear. I found a station open in Ovalle (after passing two closed) but all the services along Ruta 5 were open and very, very busy.  Also, as I gassed up in Ovalle, I got to experience an earthquake from inside a car while it was being fueled.  Exciting.  And good for the nerves of those given to worry.  It was small, 5.1, but centered bang on Ovalle.  I thought the fuel attendant had roughed up the car and asked him about it.  He laughed and said “earthquake”.  Again, I’m not fooling anyone here that I’m a native Spanish speaker.

The rest was just the usual long slog, holiday drive through gray skies kind of drive we’ve all endured. It was tiring but uneventful. I even stopped off at the store before going home so it really was like coming back from Thanksgiving or Christmas up north.

Pictures from the weekend:

No snakes in Chile, they said.

IMG_6794

Plenty of goats, though.IMG_6778

Views from the trail.IMG_6751IMG_6750IMG_6745IMG_6742

“At one point the trail is very steep. A ladder is in place to help you.”  Um, thanks?IMG_6737

I climbed up to the left.IMG_6736

Breakfast.IMG_6711

From the hill above the observatory/observing field.  You can rent a scope in a dome or a pad, with power, to operate your own gear.

IMG_6714

It’s about 150-200m from the inn to the field and the last 50m are steeply uphill.  Fun to do at night with a dim red flashlight. IMG_6779

In addition to clouds, it was very, very windy. Windy enough to move this metal housing off its pad.  Underneath is a permanently aligned equatorial mount.IMG_6780

The TEC 200mm f/8 refractor I rented for the very few hours of clear sky we got.IMG_6781

My travel dob on a pad when it looked like we might get a clear window. The wind prohibited its use.  IMG_6795

And, finally, astrophotos taken with the TEC 200.  It was a terrible night for long focal length imaging what with wind and poor seeing.  But I really wanted a close shot of these two (and, actually a few other) objects.

Omega Centauri. This is a stack of twenty 30-second exposures.

ps-stack-of-20x30

The Jewel Box open cluster. Stack of three 30-second exposures. I took 90 exposures.  Three were usable.  The wind really was incredible.  The first is a crop on the cluster and the second the full image.

ps-crop-stack-of-3x30s-60perps-stack-of-3x30s-60per

Finally, a mosaic of the solar system markers on the Hacienda’s mile and a half solar system walk.

SOLAR-SYSTEM

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