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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: (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...

Spying the neighbors

Yes, we do it sometimes ! Here are the views we got through our 25 inches telescope : actually nothing else than more observatories...
All of them are located at a mere 11km away from us, that explains the detailed pictures below, simply taken with a reflex Canon camera held at the eyepiece.

Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO) :

Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research (SOAR) :

and last but not least, the Gemini South Observatory :


Three Suns, One Year

Observing a Sun eclipse is quite a task, as it depends on a series of circumstances that one can´t hardly control... We the staff of Observatorio del Pangue, have been granted with the rare opportunity of watching three eclipses in less than a full year, actually of all the distinct existing types : annular, total and partial.


Tha partial eclipse (pictured above) was quite "extreme", with only 3% of the Sun disk covered, but it helped to complete the series... Can you spot the tiny black border of the Moon at the upper left of the solar limb?

Now we just got to watch the next one, a Total Eclipse of the Sun, that will happen again right here at the observatory, on next July 2nd, 2019...

Top view:
Annular eclipse, observed from Coyhaique, chilean Patagonia, on February 26th, 2017
Middle view:
Total eclipse, observed from Boise, Idaho (USA), on August 21st, 2017
Bottom view:
Partial eclipse, observed from Observatorio del Pangue, Chile, on February 15th, 2018

February the 7th, once again...

It's a well established tradition by now, every year on that same day we take pictures of the Sunset happening right behind the main dome of the Cerro Tololo International Observatory (CTIO), as watched from our own observing room. That's just to check if there are some anomalies in the orbit of Earth.
And definitely, there is none...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - February, 7th, 2018
Camera: Canon EOS 60D, individual exposures: 10 seconds

Unidentifyed Flying Object in our sky ?...

On the evening of February 6th, a round-shaped, fast evolving cloud, suddenly appeared in the Eastern sky, and it lasted for almost 20 minutes before vanishing. Fair enough, we had witnessed many of those before: they happen to be launches of space rockets that loose part of their fuel, a unconvenient circumstance that can lead to the failure of the entire mission... This particular rocket was not registered in the public files, that make us suspect it was launched for some military purpose!...

The overexposed close view below clearly shows the trace of the object itself, right in the centre of the cloud: it appears as a short, elongated trail, since the path of the rocket was not parallel to the Earth rotation (click on it to enlarge)

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - February, 6th, 2018
Camera: Canon EOS 60D

The largest public telescope in the world is not at the Observatorio del Pangue,

not even in Chile : actually, this is the 100-inch Hooker Telescope of the Mount Wilson Observatory (MWO) in Los Angeles, California. So, while being around this summer, we hired it for a night observing session, just to see how it feels to use the telescope that allowed Edwin Hubble to confirm the expansion of the Universe...

And just as expected, the feelings were not only historical, but also purely astronomical. As an example, below is a quick snapshot, taken at the eyepiece of the telescope, of the planetary nebula Humason 1-2 (Cygnus), a curious compact stellar remnant that reveals its sophisticated morphology only through the largest telescopes...

The historical feelings were present anyway, since this object was discovered by Milton Humason from that same telescope !

Keeping on morphologies, the eyepiece was able to display also the fine structures of NGC6826, another planetary nebula in Cygnus: the view below clearly shows the complex inner ring, as well as the two denser opposite polar patches, easy things for a telescope of that aperture...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - August 17th, 2017
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of 100-inch Hooker Telescope (MWO)

However, it's impossible to be there and not be impressed by the place itself and all it's meaning for the astrophysics.

Above: inside the dome of the 100-inch telescope, preparing the night session...

Above: Cristian Valenzuela, Edwin Hubble (centre), and Eric Escalera

On the way back to Los Angeles: astronomers also can admire the wonders of the city lights...

The Great American Eclipse : we've been there !...

August 21st, 2017 : a total eclipse of the Sun crossed entirely the USA, from Pacific to Atlantic coasts, a rare circumstance that allowed it to be witnessed by hundreds of millions of people, making this the most widely watched eclipse in history.
And certainly, as that popular song says, we wanted to be in that number...

Next we'll post full details of our successful trip to Boise, Idaho (still processing thousands of pictures...) but below is a preview image of the moment of totality, where subtle details of the Sun corona can be discerned.

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - August 21st, 2017
Camera: Canon EOS 60D, at prime focus of Celestron Nexstar 6 SE

First shot for a first-class instrument

Now ready for use, the 50cm PlaneWave telescope recently installed at the observatory seems to be definitely promising : below we present the first picture taken with a Moravian Instruments CCD camera, displaying many subtle details despite that, at the time, the telescope wasn't even fully calibrated !...

This telescope and camera are now available for visitor astrophotographers : no doubt we'll soon give more news about this facility...

Most of you will certainly recognize the southern galaxy Centaurus A (or NGC5128), offering a stunning view of a galactic collision in progress : look in particular at both ends of the dark lane beyond the round bright glow, appearing much flared and diffuse to the upper left side, but quite short and compact to the bottom right...

February the 26th : a great Annular Eclipse of the Sun from Patagonia

The feelings of living a total eclipse of the Sun are undescriptible so we'll not describe the sensations we got when the Sun disappeared for a few seconds, in that remote land of Southern Chile. Instead we are sharing here the pictures taken in the very particular moment when the Moon almost covered the Sun disk. As you can see in the views below, it was an "extreme" annular eclipse, meaning that the "ring of Sun" left behind the Moon is particularely thin, and hence shortlived... To get these pictures, it was required to be located in a very precise place on Earth, quite aligned with the respectives centres of the Moon and the Sun: the calculations we made brought us to a spot located some 15km north to the city of Coyhaique, in the chilean Patagonia, at the coordinates of 71° 59' 46" West, and 45° 26' 20" South.

The sequence displayed below corresponds to the complete total phase, that is when the Moon disk fits entirely in front the Sun. The 3rd picture is the maximum instant of the eclipse, when the Sun, the Moon, and the observer are perfectly aligned. In the previous and later pictures, the ring comes disrupted by the peaks of the lunar mountains which protude from the limb...

The complete sequence displayed above lasted for some 38 seconds only, but it was definitely worth to be part of it !...

Lastly, we may not forget the partial phases, that never fail to provide a fascinating spectacle. From the many shots taken we selected two particular moments, when the Moon was close to the unique sunspot present that day: can you spot it near the lunar limb, when entering (top view) and when exiting (bottom view)?

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - February, 26th, 2017
Camera: Canon EOS 60D, at prime focus of Celestron 127 Maksutov telescope.

February the 3rd : a doublet of supernovae in a nicely shaped galaxy

A bright supernova in a distant galaxy is always quite a spectacle, but when the same galaxy produces a second bright supernova, indeed this is an event you don't want to miss.

Almost two years ago (April, 2015, see our older post), such a supernova appeared in the southern galaxy NGC2442, and now, on early February, 2017, another one of almost the same brightness shows up, although in an opposite side of the galactic disk, labelled as AT2016bju.

The view below shows the supernova, in the form of an obvious tiny spot to the right of the galactic centre, just inside one of the spiral arms.
(North is to the left).

The smaller view at left shows the supernova, lying just between the two vertical marks.
For the comparizon, we reproduce at right the picture taken in 2015, showing the previous supernova in the north (left) side of the galaxy: can you recognize the field?...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - February, 3rd, 2017
Camera: Canon EOS 60D, total exposure: 10 minutes

Nota especial:
Carabineros de Chile: amigos o... enemigos?

Recientemente los Carabineros de Chile pusieron un parte a nuestro chofer por estar acomodando al grupo de turistas en el vehiculo, frente a la oficina del observatorio, una maniobra que habria de durar 2 minutos y medio en total. Una vez mas somos testigos de la actuación de ciertos oficiales quienes prefieren extorsionar a honrados ciudadanos en vez de perseguir a delincuentes o resolver casos de delincuencia o de desordenes a la paz civil, una actitud sin duda legal pero que para muchos es vista como cobarde y totalmente inutil para la sociedad... asi por ejemplo unos meses atras nos robaron la computadora de la oficina, y se sabe quienes fueron los dos autores, sin embargo no hemos recuperado nada aun... ¿En verdad les parece un abuso y un acto de cobardía el aprovecharse de su posición para extorsionar a gente honrada en vez de cumplir misiones de interes común?

Dejaremos que nuestros lectores hagan sus propias evaluaciones, sin embargo, y este es el objeto de esta nota, nos parece oportuno resaltar lo siguiente: la misma institución de Carabineros de Chile incluye en sus filas, y bajo el mismo uniforme, a otros oficiales quienes a diario arriesgan sus vidas, y lamentablemente hasta dan sus vidas, para combatir el crimen o para ayudar a civiles en circunstancias dramaticas: estos oficiales son autenticos heroes, actuando sin ningun afán de reconocimiento o de lucro, por lo tanto mereciéndose incondicionalmente la admiración de todos. Ciertamente es injusto ver que los anteriores, aquellos quienes se desenvuelven en misiones tan cobardes, están generando por parte de la ciudadanía un rechazo globalizado hacia una institución que incluye a personas de tan alto valor moral, personas que no dudan en arriesgarse por nosotros, y es triste constatar que, por culpa de unos pocos oficiales desconsiderados, estos heroes no se benefician del apoyo popular que tanto necesitarían...

December the 1st : witnessing an outstanding event in the remote Universe...

Quasars use to be out of reach of amateur telescopes, however in the last days something exceptional happened in the constellation of Pegasus.

Quasars are bright active galactic nuclei found in the youth of the Universe only, some kind of early stage in the life of galaxies, hence they are observable today as extremely remote objects. One of them, 4C 11.69 (also known as CTA 102), stands at some 8 billion light-years away (yes, 8,000 millions), being normally invisible except for the largest telescopes in the world. However, some days ago, it suddenly began to brighten until that night of December 1st, when it comes bright enough to be visible in medium size telescopes, or even in large binoculars ! Indeed, this is quite a special moment in the life of any astronomer, since CTA 102 became the brightest quasar ever recorded in history...

Of course at Pangue we didn't miss the opportunity to watch such a remote celestial object, whose light is coming from times well before the birth of the Solar System... And of course we even succeeded to capture the phenomenon...

The image below shows well what's happening. The quasar, located near the center of the field, is absolutely not a spectacular viewing: whithout the correct information you could easily miss it for a normal, anonymous faint star.
Still, this is the fascination: a quasar appearing just as a normal faint star !
The next image shows CTA 102, marked by the two white lines. Incidentally, note also the faint galaxy NGC7305, a small round smudge to its lower left.

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - December 1st, 2016.
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Meade LX200 16" f/6.3 ; Total exposure : 25 sec.

December the 1st : a distant supernova, as a bonus...

On the same night that we've been granted with the exceptional outburst of a quasar, an extragalactic supernova was also available in a well positioned galaxy, making two rare events visible at once !
And of course we also captured that one...

A supernova is the explosion of a high mass star : the process is so powerful that the dying star comes extremely bright for a few days, sometimes outshining the whole galaxy ! By late November, supernova SN2016iae shown up in NGC1532, a galaxy in Eridanus that produced several more supernovae in the past.

On the image below we can appreciate the tilted flat disk of the galaxy surrounding a bright nucleus : SN2016iae appears as a tiny star inmediately to its left (circled in the next image). Above the whole we can see also the small galaxy NGC1531. On that night the supernova was relatively faint (estimated magnitude 15.3), in principle requiring telescopes of 50cm in diameter, although the good local sky conditions allowed us to observe it effortless with a 40cm scope.

Incidentally, we can take advantage of such a "visit" to this pair of galaxies to appreciate some curious features, well shown in the close view below : NGC1532 (the main one) harbors two attached bright knots on the front edge of the disk (to the right side), while NGC1531 (the small one) actually appears to be made of two adjacent components...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - December 1st, 2016.
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Meade LX200 16" f/6.3 ; Total exposure : 50 sec.

November the 2nd, once again...

It's a tradition now, we never miss to take a picture of the sunset right behind the dome of the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO), as watched from our own observing room. This "personal event" happens twice a year, on November, 2nd, and on February, 8th.

On this particular day the solar disk didn't show any sunspot, nevertheless the image by itself remains quite appealing...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela (Observatorio del Pangue) - November, 2nd, 2016
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Orion 80mm refractor

October 2016: a bright nova pops up in Sagittarius

It has been a long time since the last bright nova, but we finally got a good one, this time in the constellation of Sagittarius.

In the upper view, the Nova TCP J18102829-2729590 stands above center, appearing brighter than a star immediately at its right. The lower view is the same field, with the Nova marked by a large "X". South is up, field roughly centered on R.A. 18h11m30s ; Dec. -27°25'

The above pictures were taken at the observatory on the evening of October, 26th: at this time the magnitude of the Nova was estimated at 8.0, making it an easy target even in medium size binoculars.

Visually it might not be spectacular, but it comes impressive if you recall what's going on up there... a nova is an extinct star that comes to life again due to a heavy layer of hydrogen deposited on its surface, a material directly transferred from a too close companion star that is considerably growing in size: the gravity does the rest... Nothing unusual, as this is a normal stage in stellar evolution. While being accumulated on the tiny dead star, the hydrogen layer becomes hot and dense enough to initiate nuclear fusion and make it suddenly brighten. In the sky, it seems that a new star appeared ("nova stella"), although the phenomenon uses to last a few days only.

In the night sky, the Nova stands close to the galactic center, nestled in an extremely rich star field. Actually we had to obscure the picture in order to enhance the principal stars... The view below is one of the rough pictures, showing an impressive amount of stars: can you still locate the Nova?...

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - October 26th, 2016.
Camera: Canon EOS 60D at prime focus of Meade LX200 16" f/6.3 ; Total exposure : 10 sec.

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