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REMOTE ASTRONOMY AT OBSERVATORIO DEL PANGUE
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For more information and availabilities, feel free to visit us at www.deepskysouth.org


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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...

When Deep Sky comes Deeper...

Here we display a picture of the galaxy NGC253 (Sculptor) that we took some 5 years ago, as to present a detail that is frequently overlooked : near the southern edge of the galaxy is a diminute faint compact spot of light, that looks like a star but actually is something quite different, namely, an extremely distant cluster of galaxies !
Below is the main view of the galaxy (west is up):
Same as above, with the selected area framed :
Enlargement of the selected area, where the faint compact dot can be easily spotted in the centre:
Same as above, with the cluster of galaxy framed:
Below, the final enlargement, showing the cluster of galaxy as an agglomeration of diffuse spots. It is identified as [PBP84] 004457.5-253747 and, according to the measured redshift for this object (1), we can estimate its distance to be around 5,5 billion of light years !... So the photons of light that entered our camera that night were coming from times well before the creation of the Solar System...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue
(1) Pocock, Blades, Penston, Pettini, M.N.R.A.S. (1984) 210, 373

November, 2nd, 2020 : once more...

The pace of human activities may have slowed down this year, but the Heavens continue, quite indifferent to our worries... Every year, on late afternoon of November, 2nd, the Sun sets exactly behind the main dome of the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO), as seen from our own telescope room, and every year, quite indifferent to the rest of the world, we are here to take the picture...

Compare the above view with the one posted here in 2016, and you'll only see one major difference: this time the shutter of the Tololo dome was more widely opened !...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - November, 2020
Canon 60D at prime focus of William Optics 71mm Apo refractor f/5.9

Bright Supernovae in Bright Galaxies...

Certainly it is not common to be granted with two bright supernovae in two distinct nearby galaxies, both available at the same time...

The picture below shows SN2020nlv, a type Ia supernova visible in the galaxy M85 (CBr), appearing close to the nucleus, but even closer to a magnitude 13 foreground star: at an estimated magnitude of 12.2, the supernovae is definitely brighter than the star. Note that the field displays also some more galaxies: NGC4394, IC3292, and the remote PGC40512, shining at a magnitude of 16 ! (click to enlarge)

Below, main view with the galaxies labelled and the supernova marked.

The picture below shows SN2020nvb, also a type Ia supernova, appearing in the galaxy NGC4457 (Vir), located extremely close to the galactic nucleus, and even brighter than it, at an estimated visual magnitude of 11.8

Below, zoomed view, with the supernova marked...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - July, 2020
Canon 60D at prime focus of SCT Meade 403mm reduced at f/6.4, total exposures 10 minutes for each picture.