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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: Eric Escalera / 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 following picture suggests, don't hesitate to visit us, we'd be glad indeed to receive you...

First Light for the Planewave Telescope !

The new 50cm Planewave telescope (that we refer to as T500) is still not formally aligned, and still not even perfectly collimated, though we managed to take a first astro picture, namely on the Omega Centauri globular cluster.
The result is quite promising, so we just imagine the performance it could deliver when we'll get it perfectly tuned ...and that might be any soon!

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - March, 31st, 2016.
Camera Canon 60D at prime focus of Planewave 50cm f/6.8 - Exposure: 20 sec.

May the 9th, Transit of Mercury:
success again...

The previous Transit of Mercury happened on november 2006... Ten years after, we succeeded again to watch the current one, without even needing any travelling: this time it happened at home, in Vicuña, and so we observed it from the Great Solar Observatory of Chile (GOSCh).
While still in progress, we are publishing the first shots of the event...

On the rising Sun, can you glimpse the subtle dark spot of planet Mercury, on the lower left of the Sun disk ?

When higher in the sky, the tiny black dot of Mercury comes easier to see...

The following view is processed as to show some prominences that arise from the chromosphere (that thin red ring surrounding the Sun globe): two of them are visible to the lower left of the disk.
Meanwhile the dark, sharp tiny disk of Mercury keeps going on...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / GOSCh - telescope Lunt 230mm H-alpha
camera Canon 60D - exp: 1/4000 sec. ISO 100

Below is a much classical view of the Sun obtained through a white glass filter. The disk of Mercury approaches its exit (to the lower right) and still appears with a much higher contrast than the small group of sunspots visible above the center of the sun disk.

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / GOSCh - telescope TecnoSky 80mm
camera Canon 60D - exp: 1 sec.

The main telescope, a Lunt Solar Systems 230mm H-alpha, resting after the near 7 hours long observing session...

Work in progress with the new telescopes for astrophotography...

After the rush of summertime at the observatory, we finally get closer to initiate the Astrophotography Programmes with the new large telescopes, namely a "Planewave" astrograph of 20 inches (50cm), and a "Reginato" newton scope of 28 inches (71cm), respectively labelled T500 and T700. Just keep attentive to further news soon!...

The T500 scope already installed, still in process of calibration...

Detail of the mount of the T500

The T700 scope also installed, also in process of calibration...

The T700 awaits in its brand new dome...

The T500 dome, just completed (february 2016)

Aerial view of both domes (T500 and T700) : note in the far the "tiny" domes of the S.O.A.R. and Gemini South observatories !

Photos: Observatorio del Pangue - 2016

Astrophotography at Pangue :
More from the Large Magellanic Cloud

Much less known than its prestigious neighbour the Tarantula, the complex of nebulosities around the Bean Nebula remains a stunning view through large telescopes. On the below picture the Bean itself (namely NGC1763) is the brightest patch in centre of field, but we can identify several more components such as NGC1769 (to the left), smaller and still very dense, and NGC1760 (bottom left of field), fainter and crescent shaped, all three nebulae surrounding the rich star cluster NGC1761. Topping the complex is NGC1773, a tiny round patch involving a few bright stars. All these structures are part of a large, extended nebular region, actually much greater than the Tarantula itself.

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - March, 10th, 2016.
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Meade LX200 16" f/6.3 ; Total exposure : 6 mn. Full resolution image available on demand.

A perfect alignement

It is a tradition by now, every year on the evening of February the 8th, we capture the sunset happening right behind the main dome of the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO), as viewed from our own telescope.
From year to year however there is a little shift due to the slight discrepancy between the civilian calendar of 365 days and the Sun cycle (roughly 365.25 days), something that we easily fix by adding 1 day every 4 years. This effect is appreciable if you compare the current picture with the ones taken at the same date and time on the past years (see our older posts...) showing the Sun disk a little bit more to the right (northward) of the dome.
Photo: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - February, 8th, 2016.
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of TechnoSky 80mm f/4.1 refractor telescope;

This year we managed to take also a view on the day before (the 7th), when the Sun still sets behind the CTIO but southward, putting the border of the main dome on the right limb of the disk. Not a perfect alignment, but a nice vista anyway...
Photo: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - February, 7th, 2016.
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of TechnoSky 80mm f/4.1 refractor telescope;
Full resolution images available on demand.

Astrophotography at Pangue :
Those magnificent nebulae...

It may be a classic but one never get used to either observe or take a decent picture of NGC3372, the outstanding emission nebula in the southern constellation Carina. It is also known as Eta Carinae Nebula, named after the massive star nestled in its heart, reputed to be a possible future supernova...

The view below was just a first try through a small refractor telescope from a visitor astronomer, and still it shows the extraordinary richness of the field. (North is up)

The second try with that same telescope was the nebulous regions around Alnitak, a bright star in the Orion constellation. On the view below we can identify the yellowish Flame Nebula (NGC2024), lower left to the bright star, and the tiny but much renowned Horse Head Nebula, that dark silhouette embedded in the reddish emission nebula IC434 (near centre frame).

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - January, 11th, 2016.
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of TechnoSky 80mm f/4.1 refractor telescope;
Total exposures : Carina nebulae 6 mn., Orion nebulae 8mn.

Full resolution images available on demand.

One moment on the Moon

We do like challenging deep sky targets, such as subtle nebulae and extragalactic supernovae but, when observed in good conditions, the Moon as well is quite rewarding, offering a stunning variety of geological features. The picture presented below was taken with a simple smartphone, and it renders quite well the visual sensation at the eyepiece. On that night the terminator coincided with a rich network of rilles : the deep, irregular Hyginus rille stands left to centre, while the long Ariadaeus rille runs to the lower right. But the most prominent features would be the complex of subtle rilles covering a large area on the top of the frame, just right to the notable Triesnecker crater.
(North is up)

Below we select the Triesnecker area (ref frame) that we detail it in the following inset on which the 16 distinct identifyed sections are labelled.

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - January, 16th, 2016.

Astrophotography at Pangue :
the always magnificent Great Orion Nebula

January is a good time for this classical but always stunning emission nebula : from our location it stands quite high in the sky around midnight, hence taking full advantage of the optimal weather conditions. The central regions of the nebula have been overexposed on purpose, as to better render the complex and delicate structures of the extended, faint outer parts. The entire nebula as viewed in this picture spans for some 25 light-years!

We present it with an unusual tilt (North is to the right) that seems to better display its magnificent structure. After all, there is no privilegied orientation in outer space...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - January, 11th, 2016.
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Meade LX200 16" f/6.3 ; Total exposure : 10 mn. Full resolution image available on demand.

Two more premium telescopes arrive at the observatory

We were frequently requested by amateur astronomers to offer telescopes specifically for astrophotography, of course to take advantage of the clear skies we use to have on site, but also because of our privilegied latitude (30° South), that makes the southern wonders appear at higher altitudes than in more northern areas in Chile.

So it's done now, with the set up of two large telescopes that will be ready for advanced astrophotography programmes. Check our menu for further details...

Below : Reginato 28" (71cm) newton telescope

Below : Planewave 20" (50cm) astrograph

Astrophotography at Pangue :
the magnificent Sculptor Galaxy

Formally known as NGC253, this galaxy is a treasure of the Southern Sky, standing in the Sculptor constellation, at a distance of some 12 millons light-years from us. Rendering the subtle details of its structures is never so easy, because it obviously requires fair equipments and truly good sky, but the most important factor indeed is lots of patience and practice, and amateur astronomers happen to have plenty of it...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - December 14th, 2015
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Meade LX200 16" f/6.3 ; Total exposure : 8 mn.

Astrophotography at Pangue :
the magnificent Tarantula Nebula

There may be many good pictures on this stunning nebula, but it's always great to have an opportunity to take it ourselves. The Tarantula is an emission nebula that stands on the edge of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a naked-eye galaxy visible only from southern latitudes, at a distance of some 160,000 light-years.

The view below displays the sophisticated shape of this huge nebula, as well as some hints of colours : the main body is somehow reddish, corresponding to the H-alpha light emitted by the hydrogen atoms, while central regions glow with the characteristic yellowish hue emitted by excited hydrogen atoms, as the result of the powerful ultraviolet radiation emitted from the many young stars born right here. Incidentally the central cluster of young stars, known as R136, is clearly shown in this view (high resolution format available on demand).

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - November 12th, 2015
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Meade LX200 16" f/6.3 ;

Surprising Springer Snow...

It is not usual but yesterday (October, 14th) we got snow at the observatory, despite being in spring time. This weather event was powerful but short as it uses to be in this part of Chile : it lasted for less than 24 hours (in the Elqui Valley instead they just got some heavy rain).
Hence now the familiar blue sky is back, providing some nice vistas all around, and making us ready to observe tonight...

Above: the main entrance of the observatory - October 15th, 2015

Above: our surrounding landscape (due South) - October 15th, 2015

Above: main view of the Elqui Valley, taken from the road toward the observatory. The high limit for snow is clearly visible here - October 15th, 2015

September, 27th, a fine lunar eclipse

While in San Pedro de Atacama for delivering some astronomy classes to the guides of one of the many public observatories settled there, we had the chance to witness a nice total eclipse of the Moon. As a "bonus", this eclipse coincided with a close moon perigee, resulting in a significantly greater apparent size of the lunar disk. Not needed is to say that the sky conditions where perfect, as usual in Chile, providing a truly wonderful spectacle. The views below, taken at the Explora Observatory, display the dark red colour that adorned the lunar disk around the mid-eclipse phase.

On the closer view below we can also glimpse 3 stars near the moon disk (upper left corner), and even one more tiny star extremely close to the limb: indeed watching the Full Moon surrounded by stars is a rare opportunity that only happens during a total eclipse event...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - September 27th, 2015
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Meade LX200 16" f/6.3

Astrophotography at Pangue :
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. Due to its large apparent size and its faint surface brighness, this target is 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 some skills too...) 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.

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