Author: elke@blog


Mars and friends

Currently Mars is shining brightly in one of the most intriguing parts of the Milky Way. The picture shows Mars (the orange dot in the left hand corner) along with the Lagoon Nebula ( red cloud below Mars), the Trifid Nebula (small red-blue dot to the right of the Lagoon Nebula), the Omega Nebula (red dot to the far right) and the Eagle Nebula (in the lower right corner).  Also visible are a number of star clusters, the most prominent of which is the globular cluster M22 (the bright white dot at the upper edge of the image).


Wedding pictures

I had the opportunity to shoot some wedding pictures for the production design of a movie that is currently shot in Cologne. The images will be part of the interior decoration in one of the houses that are used in the movie. The movie itself is a family roadmovie starring among others Corinna Harfouch, Meret Becker and Karl Kranzkowski.


Scorpius and the planets

Scorpius and the planets Mars (brightest dot in the upper left hand corner) and Saturn (bright white dot almost straight below Mars) one day after full moon. The image was taken with a special diffuser filter to highlight the colors of the stars and planets.


Wide-field view

Finally El Niño gave us a break and we had a spectacular clear night, which I used for some wide-field images of the Milky Way. The bright red dot above the Milky Way is the planet Mars, the fainter red dot below it is Antares (the main star of the constellation Scorpius), and the brighter dot to the left of Antares is the planet Saturn. The images were taken with my camera sitting “piggyback” on a  telescope with motorized tracking.


Transit of Mercury

On May 9, 2016, the planet Mercury passed directly in front of the sun (visible as a small black dot on the sun’s face). The whole event lasted seven and a half hours. However, in this part of Chile the initial stages (first and second contact) took place shortly before sunrise, and were therefore not visible. We had quite some clouds on that day, but I was lucky and could watch and photograph most of the transit. Transit in progress; Mercury and sunspots. Mercury is leaving the sun’s disk (third contact). A 100 % crop of the above picture. Sun halo during the transit. My setup for the transit (8″ TEC APO, 1600mm, f 8, Baader AstroSolar Safety Film).


Nightsky observer

Enjoying the beauty of the nightsky in the Salt Cordillera in the area of San Pedro de Atacama. The band of the Milky Way stretches from Alpha Centauri (left) to Orion (right), with the Large Magellanic Cloud featuring prominently close to the center (the fuzzy spot below the Milky Way).


Culinary walking tour

All the other wonderful tours and activities in San Pedro de Atacama notwithstanding, this was the absolute highlight for me. During a leisurely stroll you get to sample the distinct flavors of the region, and learn a lot about Andean history and food culture. Nora, the founder of this new venture, is not only a true foodie but also has a wonderful way of sharing her passion with her guests. If you are planning to visit San Pedro and are ready for a new experience, check out Nora’s site at A Bite of Atacama. And here are some images of the sampled dishes. Lama empanadas with homebrewn rica-rica pale ale.   Chicken saté with chañar sauce and mashed potatoes.   Gnocchi with Guanaco meat and melted goat cheese.  


Oficina Humberstone

Humberstone was the biggest “nitrate town” in northern Chile, producing salpeter that was used as fertilizer as well as for the production of explosives. Humberstone was deserted in 1960 and has been a ghost town since. In 2005 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today Humberstone is open for tourism and parts of it have been turned into an outdoor museum. Interestingly enough many of the deserted houses are completely empty: All of the interior fittings have been stolen…                    


Polloquere hot springs

The Polloquere hot springs are located at 4318 meters in the Salar de Surire in northern Chile (Parinacota region). This is a very remote area that can only be reached by offroad vehicles on rather precarious roads (don’t forget to bring extra gas and lots of water). The thermal water is moderately to very hot, and thus perfect to warm up in cold temperatures. During our stay at the hot springs we had a full moon. Although this is not ideal for astro photography, it nevertheless illuminated the landscape nicely and gave the sky an appealing blue tint. Rise of the full moon.   The two brightest stars of the nightsky, Sirius (right) and Canopus (left) are setting.   The Big Dipper, but on its head.   Great campsite with lots of parking available.   Frozen windows in the morning.   Moon setting.   Sun rising.   The moon is setting behing the ridge on the right, while the first rays of the sun illuminate the mountain on the left.   Lovely morning scenery.



I was very lucky and could to join a daytime visit to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). ALMA is located at 5000 meters altitude on the Chajnantor plateau in the Atacama desert. It consists of 66 high-precision radio telescopes, that have a diameter of 12 and 7 meters, and that can be spread over distances of up to 16 kilometers. ALMA is used to study light from some of the coldest objects in the universe, thus providing insights into our cosmic origins. In order to reach the ALMA high site you have to undergo some rigorous medical checks at the OSF (Operations Support Facility) located at 2900 meters and endure a bus ride, which completes the ascend to 5000 meters in 45 minutes.


Tololo revisited

Another delightful visit to Tololo. This time together with Eric, an astrophotographer from the US, and Jan Hattenbach, science writer and blogger from Germany. More pics…


Morning Parade

For the first time since 2005 all five visible (naked-eye) planets could be seen at once in the morning sky. Since the mountain ridges around the Hacienda made it rather difficult to capture all five planets at once, I searched for a different spot, and finally got lucky in a high-mountain valley that provided the perfect view towards the east. Click on image to enlarge. A lovely pair: Venus and Mercury in the morning sky (10 sec. exposure).