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A deep partial eclipse of the Moon,
a stellar explosion in a distant galaxy,
the return of an historical comet,
and a farewell to planet Pluto...

Just a regular, quiet November month at the observatory...

Planet Pluto is not really a popular target among amateur astronomers, since it shows only as a tiny white dot, undistinguishable from the many surrounding stars. However we wanted to take a look at it, remembering that this is a fascinating planetary system of its own... Also, while standing in Sagittarius, Pluto is about to disappear behind the Sun, so it cannot be watched again in good conditions until July, 2022.

The two pictures below, taken at an interval of 24 hours, show the star field around Pluto : hence the planet is the only dot that moved in the meantime... Can you spot it by yourself, above the centre of the field? If you do, you are repeating the procedure that led to its discovery in 1930...

November 24th. :

November 25th. :

Just in case, here is the same field, with the planet marked... (click to enlarge)
Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - November, 2021
Canon 60D at prime focus of SCT Meade 403mm, exposure 100 seconds, ISO 3200 ;
West is up

Comet 6P/ d'Arrest, discovered in 1851, is a short period body (some 6.5 years), so it can be witnessed several times in a lifetime, although some of the approaches are not favourable to observations. On November, 24th, we succeeded to capture it, in Piscis Austrinus, at a respectable magnitude of 10.2, an easy target under clear skies.

The view below shows the brighter nucleus, slightly shifted (it moved some 15 arcsec. during the exposure time), all embedded in a subtle greenish coma.
Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - November, 2021
Canon 60D at prime focus of SCT Meade 403mm reduced at f/6, exposure 10 minutes, ISO 4000; East is up

A few days ago, the Type Ia supernova SN2021aefx has been discovered in the galaxy NGC1566 (Dor): both the galaxy and the supernova are bright, so the resulting view is quite spectacular...
We took the above picture on November 24th, when the supernova was shining at a visual magnitude of 12.5, that is quite bright for such a distant event (estimated over 60 million light-years).
On this view we can appreciate the two main spiral arms of the galaxy, with the supernova standing to the right of the upper arm (see the marks on the small icon at left).

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - November, 2021
Canon 60D at prime focus of SCT Meade 403mm reduced at f/6, total exposure 15 minutes, ISO 3200 ; East is up

On November, 19th, at dawn, there was a partial eclipse of the Moon visible in almost all Americas, reaching up to 97% of the lunar disk covered, hence giving a nice display of contrasted colours.

Eclipse begins, the eastern limb already appears darkened :
Eclipse progress, now displaying the neat and curved border of the earth shadow :
Eclipse close to its maximum, with the usual orange coloured shadow of Earth :
Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - November, 2021

Astrophotography at Pangue

A quick look at the Large Magellanic Cloud...
Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - November 3rd, 2021
Canon 60D, lens 135mm, ISO 3500, total exposure 14 minutes;

We are back !...

The chilean frontiers are open, the pandemia restrictions are slowing down, and the winter is over, so we're just ready to get back under the stars...

The T400 telescope proudly facing the starry sky... The two proeminent bright spots to its right are the Moon (bottom) and planet Venus (top). Above is the magnificent Milky Way, with the galactic centre standing at the upper right corner.
On that same night, the thin crescent Moon was setting close to the dome of the Cerro Tololo observatory, as seen from our own observing room :
Photos: Cristian Valenzuela - Observatorio del Pangue - October 9th, 2021.

Lately, at the Observatorio del Pangue...

First, you arrive at Santiago de Chile...

...then you want to travel North and meet our clear skies !


Photos: (1)Eric Escalera (2)Jean Pichon / 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 place and the proposed programmes, you can visit our "facts" pages, listed at the top of the blog.

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


One small step for a man...

Few people know that the space odyssey began in Paris (France) : in the morning of November, 21st, 1783, took place the first manned flight, using the then recently invented montgolfiere (hot air balloon), so making its pilot and only passenger Jean François Pilatre de Rozier the first person to see the world from an airship.

The place was the gardens of a castle (Chateau de La Muette). Today, the castle disappeared, but the exact location is still marked by a modest and rather neglected stele : I was recently able to find it, in an abandoned field stuck between a series of highways…

By coincidence, at this particular moment, the crescent Moon was standing right over it, as if to strengthen the symbolism : actually the flight from Pilatre de Rozier was the very first step of a long human journey that eventually ended up with the landing on the Moon, in July 1969…
Photos: Eric Escalera - August 13th, 2021.

One Moon, Two Towers...

Paris is not an ideal place for taking pictures of the heavens, except maybe when the Full Moon approaches the Eiffel Tower... However, the greatest achievement I felt when taking this picture was to have been able to travel to France, despite the pandemic crisis, the close of frontiers (both Chile and the EU), the successive tests required, and the many uncertainties until the last minute ! Let's hope we'll all get out of this very soon...

A few minutes later, the full Moon was perfectly centered on the Eiffel Tower, to the delight of a not so large crowd...
Photos: Eric Escalera - June 24th, 2021.
The dark tower visible to the left is the "Tour Montparnasse", the only skyscraper in Paris

Astrophotography at Pangue :
a perfect galaxy

NGC4565 (Com) is not only a fine example of an edge-on galaxy, it is a stunning sight in large telescopes, spanning for some 15 arcmin. through the eyepiece, that is half of the apparent size of the Moon !...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - April, 2021
Canon 60D at prime focus of SCT Meade 403mm, total exposures: 42 minutes;
North is up

March, 5th, 2021 : First Pass of Apophis...

...and certainly not the last ! Some asteroids deserve special attention, and this one is among the top of the list, not because of its characteristics (merely 350 meters across), but because of its orbit, that brings it close to Earth, too often, and maybe too close...
On the evening of March, 5th, Apophis cruised off our planet, at a respectable distance of over 16,000,000 km (some 10 million miles), that made a good opportunity to watch it, safely ! The apparent magnitude of 15.5 was bright enough to allow us to see it visually through our telescopes and, why not, to capture its relatively fast motion among the star field (apparent motion was estimated at 3.5 arcsec. per minute) in the constellation of Hydra.
We took a series of pictures at intervals of 2 minutes only, and still they clearly show a tiny dot shifting from one to another : that's Apophis ! Here we display some of them, with the asteroid identifyed by the red mark: (North is up for all the views)
Click on the pictures to enlarge and watch them in a presentation mode as to see the motion effect
The picture below shows the path of the asteroid on that night (roughly from 22h00 to 03h00, local time), with the previous position circled:
And here is another series of pictures, spanning approximately an entire hour:

Apophis will make an extremely close "flyby" on April 2029, approaching at only 36,000 km from Earth centre (that is, some 30,000 km from the surface!), then again another close pass in 2038... In first instance, there was a small probability of collision for 2038, now definitely ruled out by the most accurate calculations. However, these same calculations arise a risk of collision for 2068, although we may not worry yet : the orbit of Apophis will be affected by the gravitational field of Earth during its 2029 flyby, hence the definitive trajectory cannot be established until then...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - March, 2021.

Astrophotography at Pangue

There is much more to see in Orion than the Great Orion Nebula : here we captured the NGC1977 nebula, located 1 degree north to its great neighbor, a nice gem by itself when properly observed in detail and in good conditions...
Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - January, 2021
Canon 60D at prime focus of SCT Meade 403mm reduced at f/6.4, total exposures: 40 minutes;
South is up

"Night and Day"... the frame is complete !

We used to post pictures of the Sun setting behind the dome of the CTIO (Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory, our immediate neighbor), an event that happens twice every year, at the exact same dates. But on last January 15th, we've been granted with the setting of the Moon behind that same dome, and this is far more unusual as, for a given observing spot, it repeats every 10 years only... So now we got the two pieces of a unique collection !
For the record, here is again the picture of the last Sunset on Tololo, taken on the evening of 2020, November, 3rd. : same dome, same size of the disk...
So here is the frame, complete...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue

The Great Conjunction Jupiter - Saturn : well done !...

We missed the last two events : in 1226, the telescope had not yet been invented, and in 1623, the event was not well visible from Europe, so despite his brand new telescope, Galileo missed it too... But on December 21st, 2020, the entire world was allowed to watch the phenomenon : Jupiter and Saturn approached each other in the celestial sphere, standing at a mere 6 arcminutes apart. For comparison, the apparent diameter of the Moon disk is 30 arcminutes.
Visually, it was great to watch both planets so closed together (although not merging as some stated...), but the spectacle was much more impressive through the eyepiece of a telescope, watching those two giant globes gently "floating" together, while remembering that Saturn is actually twice as distant as Jupiter...
Here are some of the pictures we took (click on them to enlarge)

December, 20th (the day before) : main view already showing the two planets very close together. The tiny dome on the top of the mountain is the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO) :

Deep zoom of the above view, even showing some Jupiter moons : that is almost the impression we could get through powerful binoculars :

Telescopic view of the scene, with the globes of Jupiter and Saturn standing close each other, at some 8 arcmin. apart :

Same view as above but overexposed, hence showing the many moons involved. Left of Jupiter is Europa and Io, and right of Jupiter is Ganymedes, then Callisto in the far (highest dot). Note also a tiny dot very close to Ganymedes and slightly fainter, this is a field star (HIP91334), by coincidence in conjunction with that jovian moon (yes, we got a conjunction within a conjunction !...) Then, below Saturn is Titan, and above the planet (slightly to the right) is Rhéa. It's interesting to notice that Callisto appears closer to Saturn than to Jupiter !

December 21st, that's the great day, with Jupiter and Saturn at their closest approach (6 arcmin.) : can you still distinguish them ? If you don't, well you're just enjoying the phenomenon...

Telescopic view, just as the previous day but ...closer !

For whose who missed the phenomenon, don't worry : you'll not have to wait 400 years for the next event, as another conjunction will occur as soon as in ...december 2080 !

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue

Total Eclipse of the Sun, December 14th, 2020 : a strange, very strange success !...

Every Sun eclipse is unique, but this one turned out more unique than any other... Yes, we observed well the complete totality, with the white, complex, extended Sun corona, with several bright proeminences emerging from the Moon disk, and with all the expected sensations of sudden darkness, etc, but all that happened under the rain !...

The scene took place in Pucón, a pleasant small city by the lake Villarica, in Southern Chile. The weather prospect were mixed (that means, not so good) and so the day was rainy, and remained rainy even after the start of the partial phase of the eclipse. We haven't given up though, and, by one of those miracles (coincidences?) that seem to be common in Chile, the clouds around the Sun completely broke a few minutes before totality, and the sky cleared enough to let us all enjoy the full show. However, the clouds "right above us" haven't break up, and kept raining on us almost all the time. And this is how we successfully observed a total eclipse of the Sun under the rain : believe us, this is quite an experience !

Unfortunately, we later knew that only a few people have been granted with a clear sky : for most of the area along the path of the eclipse it remained completely overcast, quite the opposite of what happened last year in northern Chile... Also, the sky conditions did not allow us to prepare any photographic equipment so, for once, we are not posting pictures of the eclipse...

By the way, the top view is just an effect from raindrops falling on a stream of water near our observing spot...

The Volcano Villarica, as seen from the city streets of Pucón, the day after the eclipse...