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A hole in the clouds

August is not the better time for stargazing in Chile as this is the heart of the local winter, however in one of the rare clear nights we managed to pick up this view of the Helix Nebula (NGC7293), a nice planetary nebula in Aquarius. The large apparent size and the faint surface brighness of this target use to make it a rather difficult task in any circumstances, but this is also part of the fun. Note the true colours, that always require premium equipment (and lots of patience...) to be well rendered.

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - August 18th, 2015
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Meade LX200 16" f/6.3, total exposure: 9 minutes; Moon 16% disk illuminated.

Lately, at the Observatorio del Pangue...

In this column we display some of the most relevant news, pictures, or feelings happening around the observatory.

For a complete information on the observatory and the proposed programmes, you can visit our "facts" pages, as listed at the top of the blog.

...and, as to check if we are actually as famous as the following picture suggests, don't hesitate to visit us, we'd be glad indeed to receive you...

A faint Supernova visible in the Southern Sky

On a clear, moonless night, we succeded to observe the supernova SN2015F recently discovered in NGC2442, a nice barred-spiral galaxy standing in the southern constellation of Volans, at a distance of some 60 millions light-years.
On the wide view below we can appreciate this large galaxy displaying its two well defined arms, and even the much fainter, tiny galaxy PGC21457 on the far East (left) of the field.

SN2015F appeared north to the galactic centre, as labelled by the two sticks in the closer view below. By late March the supernova peaked at a magnitude of 12.8 but, one month later, it still shines at a very accessible 14.5 magnitude.
On the same view we can appreciate also the details of this somewhat irregularly shaped galaxy, in particular the northern (top) arm, clearly divided by a dense, long curve of dark material.

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - April 21st, 2015
Camera: Canon EOS 60D, total exposure: 17 minutes

Craig Weatherwax, "the Boss" at OPT, visited us !

"Oceanside Photo & Telescope" (OPT) is a major retailer of astronomical equipment based in California. We at "Astronomica del Sur Ltda." have a long term business relationship with them, that made us purchase there all the large telescopes we installed in public facilities throurough Chile, such as the observatories of the Explora Hotel and the Alto Atacama Hotel in San Pedro de Atacama, the Ahlarkapin observatory, also in San Pedro, the Inca de Oro observatory in Diego de Almagro, the Valle del Sol observatory in Caren, not forgetting of course our own structures, the Pangue observatory and the newest Great Solar Observatory for Chile (GOSCh).

We chosen this partnership because of the high level of profesionalism and personal attention that the staff at OPT uses to deliver. Adding the telescopes they sold to some other customers, that makes OPT responsible for over two thirds of the chilean public astronomy !
Besides owning OPT, Craig Weatherwax is worldwide renowned for his constant support to public astronomy but in Chile indeed he is litterally a Very Important Person...

As part of a long trip accross South America, Craig and family bothered to come to Vicuña just to visit us, and we'll certainly remember this moment as one of the highlights of the observatory.

Craig Weatherwax posing at "his" 16 inches Meade LX200 scope
Observatorio del Pangue - March 18th, 2015

Craig Weatherwax posing at "his" 25 inches Obsession scope
Observatorio del Pangue - March 18th, 2015

Craig Weatherwax looking through "his" H-alpha 230mm Lunt Solar System scope
Gran Observatorio Solar de Chile - March 18th, 2015

February the 8th, one more year...

Every year at the same date the Sun sets exactly behind the domes of the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO) as seen from the Pangue Observatory, and just every year we try to take the shot of the event (check our previous posts...)

Indeed this is nice way -among many others -to visualize the high accuracy of the Newton's laws of gravitation!

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela (Observatorio del Pangue) - February, 8th, 2015
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Orion 80mm refractor

January 26th : a rare flyby witnessed

On that evening a mid-size asteroid labelled 2004 BL86 approached at some 1,200,000 km from Earth, that is roughly 3 times the distance to the Moon. Such events are (fortunately) extremely rare, and they use to provide a nice spectacle to advanced stargazers.
And indeed it was amazing : not only the asteroid was bright enough to be seen with medium to large telescopes (although a deeply detailed chart was necessary to correctly identify it...) but its motion throurough the stars can be appreciated in real time !

On the above picture, taken in Cancer (not far from the star cluster M44) we can see the short trail left by the object, corresponding to a displacement of over 3 arcmin. performed in 90 seconds only ! That corresponds to covering the apparent size of the Moon in less than 15 minutes...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela (Observatorio del Pangue) - January, 26th, 2015
Camera: Canon EOS 60D, exp: 90 sec.

Planets at Dusk

When arriving at the observatory our visitors are currently granted with a nice view of planets Venus and Mercury, shining together after sunset, unusually close each other.
The pìcture below captures this scene: Venus is the bright spot at upper left corner, with Mercury standing below, slightly fainter. Both planets are facing the dark silhouettes of the many domes of the Cerro Tololo International Observatory (lower right).

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela (Observatorio del Pangue) - January, 12th, 2015
Camera: Canon EOS 60D

2015 welcomes stargazers with a nice comet

We said it before and we say it again : bright, naked-eye comets are quite rare. That's why we particularely appreciate the visit of the comet Lovejoy (2014-Q2) and its long path throrough the southern skies.

On the picture below we can appreciate the extense, nearly spherical coma surrounding the brighter nucleus, and we can even notice the typical greenish hue that, as usual, reveals the presence of abundant diatomic carbon (C2).

On the December 21st evening, Lovejoy crossed very close to the distant galaxy NGC2188 (Columba). The following picture captures this encounter, with the elongated, irregularely shaped galaxy visible at far left, embedded in the end of the faint and extremely long straight tail of the comet.
Note that, because this is a long exposure shot, the comet compact nucleus forms a short trail, as it moved among the star field.

Lovejoy will offer an amazing view to stargazers from mid January, when the Moon leaves the scene and allows to enjoy dark starry skies. You may really try to see it then, as it is likely that you'll not witness its next pass, expected in some 8,000 years...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela (Observatorio del Pangue) - December 2014
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Meade 16" Schmidt Cassegrain telescope

December 30th : Unidentifyed Flying Object witnessed from the observatory

...although it didn't remain unidentifyed for long...

On that evening our group enjoyed viewing this bright, strange artifact moving relatively fast across the western sky, and surrounded by fainter, symmetrical diffuse patches of light.

Because of its position, motion, and aspect through the telescope (well rendered in the image below) we soon suspected it might be some space launch from China, and that appeared to be correct : on that particular time of the night the chinese Long March 3A rocket successfully placed into a geostationary orbit a sophisticated meteorological satellite.

Definitely astronomers are not good UFOs viewers, maybe that's because they use to "identify" what they see...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela (Observatorio del Pangue) - December 30th, 2014
Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Monster Dark Spot Shows Up on the Sun Disc

October, 21st : as it already happened some months ago, a huge dark spot appeared on the surface of the Sun, although this time we better call it a "monster" dark spot : it comes some 40.000km across (over 3 times the size of Earth), while the entire group to which it belongs, labelled AR2192, spans for over 150.000km...

In the last days this sunspot group came greater than the largest one of the previous solar cycle (that was on Oct. 30th, 2003), hence becoming the largest of such features to show up on the Sun disc in several decades.

This time also the sunspot can be seen with naked eyes, of course using a proper filter or specialized eclipse glasses. The group will remain visible until Oct. 28th. only, then disappearing through the Sun border but, as it keeps growing, it might be visible again by mid november, after completing the rotation of the Sun !

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - October 21st, 2014
Camera: Xperia J phone at prime focus of Orion 80mm refractor with white light filter

Astro Vistas in Paris

Last season our french astronomer Eric was at home again, and despite the dreadful weather conditions that characterized the local summertime this year, he succeeded to witness the close conjunction between the Moon and Saturn on August 31st (2014): actually it was the first clear night in weeks !

On the above picture you can distinguish the tiny spot of Saturn topping the Moon border, and also planet Mars much farther at lower left, half way to the Eiffel Tower.

The large view above, taken some two hours later, still shows Saturn (click to enlarge) at upper right of the Moon. Many tourists were taking snapshots of the nice vista, but very few could guess that they got a planet as well...

Photo: Eric Escalera / Observatorio del Pangue

Un Día con Camille Flammarion

Une Journée avec Camille Flammarion

Foto superior: el Observatorio de Juvisy, visto desde su parque.
Ci-dessus : l'Observatoire de Juvisy, vu depuis le parc.

Tal como lo hiciera tres años atrás con Charles Messier, en su reciente gira por sus tierras nuestro director Eric Escalera tuvo la oportunidad de dedicarle una jornada a otro histórico astrónomo francés, tratándose esta vez de Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), autor (entre muchas otras obras!) del mundialmente difundido libro "Astronomía Popular". Así Eric estuvo en el Observatorio fundado por el mismo astrónomo en 1883, en la localidad de Juvisy, a unos 20km de Paris. La visita -privada- fue posible gracias a la agrupación "Los Amigos de Camille Flammarion", constituida por un conjunto de personas benevolas quienes gestionan el Observatorio y sus actividades con un entusiasmo, un profesionalismo, y una disponibilidad absolutamente notables.
Tout comme il l'avait déjà fait en 2011 avec Charles Messier, lors de son dernier séjour en France notre directeur Eric Escalera a eu l'opportunité de dédier toute une journée à un autre célebre astronome français, Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), auteur (entre autres ouvrages!) de l'"Astronomie Populaire", l'un des livres les plus diffusés dans le monde à l'époque. La visite (privée!) de l'Observatoire que fonda l'astronome en 1883, à Juvisy-sur-Orge près de Paris, fut possible grace à l'association "Les Amis de Camille Flammarion", organisme constitué d'un groupe de bénévoles qui gèrent l'Observatoire et les activités attenantes avec un enthousiasme, un professionalisme, et une disponibilité absolument remarquables.

Foto superior: el telescopio del Observatorio de Juvisy, un imponente instrumento de 240mm de diámetro. Anoten la original estructura de madera de la cúpula, diseñada por el mismo astrónomo.
Ci-dessus: la grande lunette de l'Observatoire de Juvisy, un imposant réfracteur de 240mm de diamètre, et son originale coupole de bois, dessinée par Camille Flammarion lui-même.

El Observatorio conserva el famoso telescopio con el cual Camille Flammarion y sus colegas realizaron tantas observaciones y fotografías determinantes. El instrumento y su montura fueron incluso renovados recientemente, gracias a un considerable esfuerzo financiero, habiendo entonces recuperado su flamante aspecto original.
L'Observatoire abrite toujours la fameuse grande lunette avec laquelle Camille Flammarion et ses astronomes invités réalisèrent toutes leurs observations et photographies. L'instrument et sa monture ont même été rénovés récemment, retrouvant ainsi leur aspect original.

Foto izquierda: ahi vemos Eric, bien orgulloso de posar en la misma escalera que tantas veces usara el gran astrónomo (y que también diseñó...)
Ci-contre: Eric n'était pas peu fier sur l'escalier de bois si souvent utilisé par le génial astronome (et également dessiné par lui...)

"...Es realmente emocionante estar en este lugar y compartir algo de la vida de Camille Flammarion, pues si es bien famoso su talento de vulgarizador, se sabe mucho menos que él fue quien espabiló a la astronomía francesa que, bajo el liderazgo de LeVerrier, privilegiaba las simples medidas de posiciones (astronomia) en vez de estudiar la naturaleza física de los astros (astrofísica). Gracias a su notoriedad, y por los trabajos realizados aqui, Camille Flammarion pudo alertar de este hecho, y evitar asi que se vuelva irrecuperable el retraso que Francia estaba acumulando en ese campo frente a las demas naciones.".
"...C'est impressionnant d'être ici et de pouvoir partager quelques aspects de la vie de Camille Flammarion, car si on connait bien son talent de vulgarisateur, on sait moins que c'est bien lui qui a sorti l'astronomie française de la torpeur dans laquelle elle s'installait en ce milieu du XIXème siècle, en privilégiant les simples mesures de positions (astronomie) aux dépends de l'étude de la nature physique des astres (astrophysique). Camille Flammarion a su dénoncer que, sous la tutelle de LeVerrier, la France prenait un retard considérable par rapport aux autres nations en recherche astrophysique, et grace à sa notoriété et aux travaux qu'il a mené avec cette lunette, il a pu ainsi éviter que ce retard ne devienne irratrapable..."

Foto superior: recordando su anterior nota sobre Charles Messier, Eric capturó esta vista de la escalera de caracol de la torre que Camille Flammarion mandó añadir al edificio, para así facilitarles a los astrónomos invitados un acceso mas directo a la cúpula de observaciones.
Ci-dessus: comme un clin d'oeuil au précédent article sur Charles Messier, Eric n'oublia pas de capturer cette vue de l'escalier en colimaçon de la tour que Camille Flammarion fit construire pour permettre aux astronomes invités un accès plus direct à la coupole d'observation.

Foto superior: Gérard Dufour, disfrutando su papel de anfitrión del "Observatoire de Juvisy".
Ci-dessus: Gerard Dufour, très à l'aise dans son rôle d'amphitrion de l'Observatoire de Juvisy.

La visita terminó por unos momentos frente a la tumba de Camille Flammarion, quien reposa bajo una estrella florida, en el mismo parque del Observatorio... Solo nos queda entonces agradecer vigorosamente a Gérard Dufour, presidente de la agrupación "Los Amigos de Camille Flammarion", quien condujo la visita, y Laurent Weill, vice-presidente de la agrupación, por su gentileza y, porque no repetirlo, por el profesionalismo y el inmenso entusiasmo que demuestran. Al término de su visita, Eric nos confiaba que

"...al dejar Gerard Dufour, realmente tuve la sensación de haber pasado un día con Camille Flammarion !..."

La visite s'acheva par quelques moments passés devant la tombe de Camille Flammarion, lequel repose sous une étoile de buis, dans un recoin du parc de l'Observatoire... Nous tenons alors à remercier chaleureusement Gérard Dufour, président de l'association "les Amis de Camille Flammarion", qui conduit lui-même la visite, et Laurent Weill, vice-président de l'association, pour leur gentillesse et, pourquoi ne pas le répéter, le professionalisme et l'immense enthousiasme dont ils font état. A l'issue de sa visite Eric avouait:

"...en quittant Gérard Dufour, j'avais réellement la sensation d'avoir passé une journée avec Camille Flammarion !..."

Photos : Eric Escalera - 10 juillet 2014

Observaciones del Sol como nunca antes !!...

En este mes de Junio de 2014 se inició en Vicuña (Región de Coquimbo)
el Gran Observatorio Solar del Chile (GOSCH), una nueva oferta en astronomia pública, inedita en Chile pues consiste en un observatorio exclusivamente dedicado para la observacion del Sol y de su constante actividad, a través de un telescopio de alto nivel, del cual solo existen unas pocas unidades en el mundo.

Para mas detalles les invitamos a consultar aqui la pagina oficial del GOSCh.
Y, por supuesto, les esperamos en cualquier momento del dia y del año !...

Comet Jacques (C/2014_E2), brightest of the year (so far...)

Bright, spectacular comets are quite rare, while faint, little fuzzies are rather common. The current comet Jacques is just intermediate, barely visible to the naked eye, but offering a definitely nice view at the eyepiece. It was discovered by the brasilian astronomers Cristovao Jacques, E. Pimentel, y J. Barros from the Sonear observatory.

On the picture below we can distinguish the bright compact nucleus embedded in a dense coma that appears spherical, except for a subtle opening on the top, corresponding to the eastward very faint tail, almost reaching the upper edge of the field.
Note also the greenish colour that traces the presence of diatomic carbon (C2), an element commonly found in such comets.

Jacques is currently brightening, moving thorough Canis Major and heading to the Cone Nebula, that it will encounter on the evening of next May 29th...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - May 18th, 2014
Camera Nikon D3100 at prime focus of Meade LX200 16 inches telescope, f/6.3, exp: 15 sec.

Furthermore, comet Jacques is expected to brighten considerably by July and August : it could then become a naked-eye object, well visible from the Northern hemisphere, so just keep watching!...

The 8th day, never disappointing...

We do not perform any Astro Tour on the "big Moon nights" but, on the last evening before closing, the Moon uses to offer stunning views through our large scopes.

We might even try to take a snapshot of the low-magnification entire Moon disc with your own camera, whatever it is, such as the one showed below, taken on the 8th day of the lunar cycle, with a simple cell phone!...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - May 8th, 2014
Camera: Xperia J cell phone hold at eyepiece of Explore Scientific 152mm refractor

Two Alignements in a Row :
April 17th, the Moon occults Saturn.

Less than 48 hours after the total eclipse of the Moon, another nice event occured in our skies, an occultation of Saturn by the Moon. Such occultations are quite rare, although they use to come in series.

It also happened at a rather uncomfortable time (around 5H00) but we managed to watch it, again in perfect conditions. Below are some quick snapshots from before and after the event : sorry, we reserved the occultation itself (both immersion and emersion) for pure visual observing...

Just in case, the next occultation of Saturn from Chile will be on July, 8th...

Tiny planet Saturn approaching the bright limb of the giant Moon...

... same Saturn after emerging from the dark limb of the wanning Moon, not far from the craters of the terminator

Photo: Eric Escalera / Observatorio del Pangue - April 17th, 2014
Camera: Samsung ST77 at prime focus of 16" Meade LX200 scope

Two Alignements in a Row :
April 15th, a Total Eclipse of the Moon.

Last night, we could witness in perfect conditions a complete Total Eclipse of the Moon, from 03H00 to 05H00 (local time). This was a clear eclipse, as the Moon disc appeared slighty orange in the total phase, that is consistent with the clear and clean skies of Chile.

Maybe the most impressive was a naked eye view, showing an unusually small and colored Moon accompagnied by brillant blue-hued star Spica a few degrees at left, and extremely brillant orange Mars at the bottom, all those surrounded by the deep starry sky, the rich southern Milky Way, and the shiny galactic centre almost at the zenith !...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - April 15th, 2014
Camera: Xperia J cell phone at prime focus of 8" Orion SkyQuest scope

Close encounter again...

Planet Saturn approached closely to the Moon, as seen from the observatory, on past March, 20th. Indeed it's always nice to view such different worlds in the same apparent field, with giant Saturn distant of almost one and half billon kilometers, and our tiny Moon less than 400,000km away...

However the spectacle might be even greater in the morning of next April, 17th, as the Moon will occult Saturn!... Despite the uncomfortable time (around 05H00 in the morning), we just wish that many people will witness this unusual event...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - March 20th, 2014
Camera: just a cell phone...