On July 2, 2019, we could observe a total solar eclipse in our region in Chile. I was extremely lucky, as I could watch (and photograph) the eclipse from my bedroom window. Totality was a moment of rare beauty, intriguing and emotional. But after 2 minutes and 25 seconds the diamond ring effect announced the end of totality and the unique cosmic show was over. But don’t despair. The next total solar eclipse is coming soon. It is happening in southern Chile and Argentina on December 14, 2020.
Jupiter, the second-brightest planet after Venus, makes a splendid appearance in the night sky right now. On June 10, 2019, the giant gas planet will reach its yearly opposition, i.e. the planet is located opposite the Sun (with the Earth being between Jupiter and the Sun). Therefore, on and around June 10th, Jupiter will rise when the sun sets, will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight, and will set at sunrise.On my first image Jupiter is the bright dot close to the center of the picture. For the second photo I used a softener filter that highlights the color and brightness of the stars and planets, and thus makes it easier to identify constellations.
For my first try at a galaxy I chose the Sombrero Galaxy (also known as M 104 or NGC 4594). This galaxy is located in the constellation Virgo and is some 31 million light-years away. I took this image in prime focus, i.e. I used an 8″ refractor telescope with a focal length of 1600 mm as a “lens” on my modified DSLR. This image was taken at the Daniel Verschatse Observatory in Río Hurtado, Chile.
The Eagle Nebula (or IC 4703) is a diffuse emission nebula in the constellation Serpens, some 7000 light-years distant. The cluster of bright stars near the center of the image is called M 16 or NGC 6611. These young and hot stars illuminate the dark silhouette near the center of the nebula. This dark silhouette is also referred to as Pillars of Creation, after a famous photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995. The same area was re-photographed by Hubble in higher resolution in 2014. This image was taken at the Daniel Verschatse Observatory in Río Hurtado, Chile.
Omega Centauri (or NGC 5139) is the largest and brightest globular cluster in the Milky Way. It has a diameter of 150 light-years and contains some 10 million stars. This stellar beauty can be found in the Southern constellation Centaurus, and is even visible to the naked eye under dark skies.
Startrails above the cordillera in the Cochiguaz valley. The image consists of 273 individual photos that were taken during two and a half hours and then digitally combined to produce the colorful arcs of the stars.
As I was planning to take black and white pictures, this time I was more than happy when some clouds appeared.
This image not only portrays the band of the Milky Way, the planets Jupiter (bright round dot in the Milky Way) and Saturn (brighter spot in a straight line below Jupiter) and the zodiacal light (light pillar stretching from the horizon toward the Milky Way) but also a meteor (the longer straight line) and a brief flare of two satellites (the two tiny parallel lines). Featuring prominently in the foreground is one of the domes of the Daniel Verschatse Observatory in Río Hurtado, Chile, an outstanding observatory that focuses on advanced astrophotography.
The band of the Milky Way stretches nicely across this pre-dawn fisheye view. The noticeable round dot in the Milky Way is the bright planet Jupiter. The light pillar extending from the horizon toward the Milky Way is the zodiacal light. And what appears to be a smudge on the bottom right hand of the image, is in fact the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), an irregular dwarf galaxy that can be seen with the naked eye under dark skies in the Southern Hemisphere.
Another morning meant another opportunity to catch the lovely show of the planets. As the moon was quite literally out of the picture, the rather faint glow of the zodiacal light was visible. The zodiacal light is a pillar of light that is visible in the east just before sunrise during fall in the Southern Hemisphere. A few minutes later dawn set in, and Mercury became visible above the mountains.
A creative by-product from my early morning photography.
While chasing the planets in the early morning hours, I was captivated by a continuously rising sea of fog that eventually swallowed everything (including my anticipated view of the rising sun). More pics…
These days the early bird not only catches the worm, but a lovely show of the planets, as they parade along the ecliptic (the apparent path that the sun, moon and planets follow in the Earth’s sky). The next two days the waning crescent moon will cuddle up with Venus and Mercury respectively before doing its disappearing act on new moon. Please be aware that this image was taken in the Southern Hemisphere, where the ecliptic is much steeper at this time of year, which means that the planets Venus and Mercury are higher in the sky and can therefore be more easily spotted.
While traveling on the main road that connects the Elqui valley with the Hurtado valley I came upon this damaged bridge. I am not scared easily but when I saw this fragile construction I held my breath. After a quick scan I hit the gas and drove across rather quickly (hoping that it would crash behind me, if it were to collapse). Having arrived safely at the other side, I took some pictures to document the damage for the local authorities. A week later I was traveling on the same road again. The bridge was closed to traffic and a new detour, which doesn’t need a bridge, had been built. Judging from my experience with Chilean authorities, this detour will become the official road, and the old bridge will turn into another derelict landmark.
This beautiful nightscape above the derelict church of Serón features many of the well-known objects of the southern sky: the bright stars Alpha and Beta Centauri, the Southern Cross, the Coalsack Nebula, the Magellanic Clouds as well as the globular clusters Omega Centauri and 47 TUC.
Rodeos in Chile differ markedly from those in the US. In Chilean rodeo, a team consisting of two riders and two horses ride laps around an arena trying to stop a calf, pinning it against large cushions. Only if they pin the calf at an exactly defined spot can they gain points. The rodeo in Pichasca is the biggest of the local rodeos. It lasts four days and attracts roughly 4.000 visitors.
A creative by-product of our trip to the cordillera.
My daughter and I went on a three-day horseback ride to the lagoon El Cepo, which is located in the Chilean cordillera at approx. 3000 meters. Although the ride was a little strenuous at times (especially for the mule), the lagoon and the surrounding area was quite spectacular. See all the pics…
My daughter and I spent wonderful days on Easter Island (Rapa Nui in the indigenous language). This truly felt like paradise. For those interested in the history of the island, there is a a movie Rapa Nui, co-produced by Kevin Costner in 1994, which focuses on the destruction of the forests and the birdman cult.
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).