A Haven for Stargazing

June 12, 2016, Observatorio Astronómico Andino

Today’s highlight was visiting our first of many observatories, the Observatorio Astronómico Andino (https://www.oaa.cl/en/) just outside of Santiago.  Unfortunately, it was cloudy.  However, that did not stop our wonderful hosts from putting on an incredible spread and showing us what astrotourism is all about.

ArcoIris

Beautiful metal sculptures adorned the whole facility. Image courtesy of Observatorio Astronómico Andino.

The mountain retreat not only has some pretty impressive telescopes located in a very secluded area, but it is a breathtaking building as well. The owners spared little expense when designing and decorating this place.  They made it feel like a haven from the city to enjoy the stars.

ambiente-rustico

Patio areas complete with propane heaters and a bar. Image courtesy of Observatorio Astronómico Andino.

It was supposed to rain, so initially the dome cover was kept on, but then our host decided to remove it to give us a feel of what it would be like if there were no clouds.

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M.F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

June 13, 2016, AURA Recinto

Today we flew north to begin our journey of really big telescopes in a lovely city called La Serena.  

LaSerena

M.F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

After we arrived, we went to the AURA Recinto (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy).  This group manages the National Optical Astronomy Observatories which include CTIO, SOAR, Gemini, and LSST.  It was a very interesting afternoon.  We heard presentations from tourist observatories, teachers as well as staff from AURO.  Even though half of the room only spoke English and half the room only spoke Spanish, you could help but feel the passion that everyone possessed for astronomy education and outreach.  It was delightful.

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Photon detector (left), test chamber (right). M.F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

After the presentations, we took a sneak peek tour of the machine and electronics shop.  It was so neat!  When stuff goes wrong or breaks, these folks create, fabricate and test new parts themselves.  (At right: a custom-built test chamber.)

And if you could look inside one of these engineer’s heads, this is what it would look like:

EngineerMind

M.F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

We finished the day with a visit to the Cerro Mayu Observatory.  It was a little cloudy but we still could see stars.  I took my first ever astrophotography pictures, coming soon!  Hopefully next time we will get a nice clear night and be able to see the Magellanic clouds. We’ll see what tomorrow brings, hopefully clear skies.

Written By: Michelle Ferrara Peterson

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