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DEEP SKY SOUTH : Remote Astronomy at Observatorio del Pangue
We still offer a service of hosting telescopes or private observatories for those stargazers who enjoy accessing to the Southern sky in optimal conditions. Don't worry for technical support or high speed internet, we provide it all.
For more information and availabilities, feel free to visit us at www.deepskysouth.org

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The 2024 Total Solar Eclipse, Texas : we've been there !

8:00am, first look through the windows of the motel, the sky is totally overcast, with dense, heavy dark clouds. 5.5 hours left until totality, and I feel good. The place is Camp Wood, a small village in the Texas country, some 150km west of San Antonio. It will be a long day, so let’s have a good breakfast. ... There is a restaurant just across the route 55, the road that runs through the town. No one from the left, no one from the right, actually no one anywhere, easy crossing… I don’t know what I’ll find beyond the door of the restaurant… Oh, everyone is here having breakfast ! There is no “eclipse feeling” though, it’s true that the forecast is not good, but I feel good.

The day before, we located the perfect site to watch the eclipse, a small public garden with a clear view all around, we arrived here early to get the right spot, although there was no need to hurry : we’ve been alone all the time !
11:00am, 2,5 hours until totality. Here we are, installed on the only public bench, and the sky is cloudy. Do I detect some breaks in the cloud mass? Yes, I do. The sky is becoming “partially cloudy”, with growing areas of blue sky. We can use now the binoculars to watch the Sun, that makes me feel good.
12:00pm, First Contact scheduled in 15 minutes more, now we anticípate the path of the clear areas to guess if one of them will coincide with the Sun at the right moment. And it did so : First Contact spotted through the binoculars, the tiny black limb of the Moon is definitely here. Whatever happens now, at least we’ve seen the 2024 Texas Eclipse!

But we want more. The Moon is progressing fast over the Sun, and the clouds still run all over : is there a chance after all that we witness the totality ? The partial phase lasts only 1 hour and 18 minutes, it seems factible, just need to keep looking at the shrinking of the Moon crescent.

01h28pm, totality in 4 minutes, and the Sun keeps swimming among the black clouds ! I tried something that should never be done : remove the filter from the binoculars, although not putting an eye to them, just watch from a prudential distance the extreme light that is in there. Some 25 seconds before totality the light dimmed enough to attempt a direct visión, and I saw something extraordinary that I never saw before : the Moon was not a crescent anymore, just a thin yellow line slightly curved, spanning some 10 degrees, and flying transversally behind the clouds (which actually were the ones moving…), it definitely looks like an alien spaceship, until it suddenly disappeared, replaced by the magnificent Sun corona surrounding the black disk of the Moon : totality ! We saw it, and I instantly realized that, no, until now I didn’t feel good at all, it was a nervous sensation… Surprisingly, the totality coincided with a cloudless area which lasted almost all the expected time. And we enjoyed it indeed.

Why is each total eclipse systematically indescribable ? Let me say at least that everything was there : the irregular lunar limb still playing with the sunlight for a couple of seconds, the delicate structure of the Sun corona, and, a few moments after the start of totality, the apparition of some prominences, one of them notably extended, displaying its particular mix of pink and purple, a spectacular colour that cannot be rendered by any picture, it can be appreciated only in live.
For this trip we had decided to make visual observing only, with Celestron SkyWatcher 15x70 binoculars, but Cristian is an astrophotographer and couldn’t help but sacrifice some precious seconds to take a few snapshots of the eclipse, although losing almost nothing of the live show.

We visited Los Angeles, and Venice Beach, we touched the actual De Lorean time machine, and a recovered piece of the Titanic body, we entered almost all the casinos of Las Vegas, we saw the cross marks where President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, we visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston (and, yes, we had a problem…), we rode on the desertic Route 66, but none of these memories will replace the feeling of those 4 minutes.

Yet the totality ended, the short straight line was back, soon replaced by a thin crescent Sun, but shortly after the sky became cloudy again, covering a large part of the final partial phase.

Nevertheless, I managed to watch the Last Contact through some thin transparent clouds, which allowed me to make a virtual connection with the next eclipse…

A few moments of the totality... (click to enlarge)

Text and tourist pictures : Eric Escalera
Eclipse pictures : Cristian Valenzuela, april 8, 2024

Have you ever seen a neutron star?...

There is one relatively accessible (mag. 16.5) in the heart of the Crab Nebula, namely M1 (Taurus), a remnant of a supernova witnessed in July 1054...

In the picture below, we succeeded to capture the light from the neutron star itself: this is the faintest of the two components of the tight apparent pair of stars near the centre of the nebula.

In the close-up hereafter, see the marks to locate the neutron star (click to enlarge)

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela
Observatorio del Pangue
February 16th, 2024
Canon 60D at prime focus of SCT Meade LX200 16" f/10
Total exposure 40 minutes
North is up

Three galaxies and a visitor comet...

The year 2023 ended with a nice cosmic encounter : a faint comet visited a famous trio of galaxies. The comet is ZTF 2020-V2, a remote object crossing the Solar System over 500 million km from Earth, and the galaxies are the Grus Triplet (namely NGC7582, NGC7590, and NGC7599), located some 60 million light-years away, in the Southern constellation of Grus (the Crane).
On the evening of December 13th, the comet come to nestle in the heart of the trio of galaxies. At least viewed from Earth : you certainly noticed that the galaxies are located one million million times further away (strange enough, a proportion quite similar to that of the encouter of Ceres with the galaxy M100, ocurred 9 months ago...)

And of course we've been there to capture this unusual arrangement... In the picture below, the galaxies display some structures, while the comet shows only the round, fuzzy false nucleus, surrounded by a faint hint of coma.

From left to right, the faint fuzzies visibles here are : galaxies NGC7599 and NGC7590, comet ZTF, and galaxy NGC7582
Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - December 13th, 2023
North is up

The Northeast Astronomy Forum 2023 (NEAF) : we've been there !

Dubbed the largest astronomy fair in the world, the Northeast Astronomy Forum held in the surrounds of New York City is indeed a nice place to be. This year we decided to attend, mainly to promote our telescope hosting service "Deep Sky South", but also because one should never miss an opportunity to visit the fascinating city of New York.

Yes, our booth is somewhere among the many exhibitors who attended the 2023 edition of the NEAF...

Whatever the circumstance, we never forget to connect with the heavens : the view below, taken from Brooklyn, shows lower Manhattan behind the Brooklyn Bridge but, can you glimpse the tiny white dot up in the sky ?...
This is planet Venus ! (click to enlarge)

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - April 2023

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 delighted to welcome you...

March 26th, a rare cosmic encounter...

Ceres is the first asteroid discovered, and still the largest body in the asteroid belt of the Solar System. Now dubbed "dwarf planet" (together with Pluto), its average distance from the Sun is slightly over 400 million kilometers.
M100 is a magnificent face-on spiral galaxy in Coma Berenices, distant of roughly 60 million light-years, that is some 1,5 million of million times farther ! And even so, they succeded to meet... at least from our perspective : on the evening of last March 26th, Ceres crossed in front of M100 in our sky, in a rare event not to be missed.

The picture below was taken at the beginning of the pass, with Ceres just "touching" the most external spiral arm of the galaxy. It is visible as a very bright spot at the upper left of the galactic nucleus.

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - March 26th, 2023
Canon 60D at prime focus of SCT Meade LX200 16" reduced at f/6, total exposure 10 minutes. North is up

Astrophotography at Pangue : season 2023 begins...

The complex of nebulae around the Eta Carinae star field, referred as NGC3372, is fascinating when viewed in good conditions. The picture below was taken in one of those perfect summer nights : it reveals the many details available in the extended area. The separate bright patch at the upper right corner is labelled NGC3324, and the tradition in Chile says that it mimics the profile of the Nobel prize winner poetess Gabriela Mistral... Look also for the intense, curiously still unnamed, dark nebula toward the bottom of the field.
Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - March, 2023
Canon 60D at prime focus of 71mm refractor, total exposure 25 minutes.
North is up

ZTF, the "Green Comet"

By the end of 2022 it was scheduled to be spectacular, with a potential of being visible to the naked eye in February, but it didn't... Nevertheless, comet ZTF (C/2022-E3), named after its "discoverer" (Zwicky Transient Facility), is an interesting object, since it is returning supposedly for the first time in some 50,000 years ! Indeed it must have witnessed some great changes in our civilisation...

We could observe it wandering from Gemini to Taurus, still shining at a magnitude of 6.4, that is just under the limit of visibility for human eye.
The picture below shows the bright, extended coma (left side) followed by the flared, irregularly shaped dust tail (right side). The green color of the coma, rather common on comets, is due to the presence of diatomic carbon (C2), while the brownish (reddish?) tint of the tail is produced by the usual interaction of sunshine with dust.

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - February, 2023
Canon 60D at prime focus of SCT Meade LX200 16" reduced at f/6, ISO 3200, total exposure 10 minutes.

A pair of distant stellar explosions, both bright enough for visual telescopes...

Supernovae are quite rare in a given galaxy, but astronomers use to detect hundreds of them every year, by surveying a large sample of galaxies. Below are two of them, detected almost simultaneously.

The first one, labelled SN2023axu, is located not far in the sky from Sirius, the brightest star. We captured it when shining at a reasonable magnitude of 14.6, within the outskirts of the tiny galaxy NGC2283 (CMa), distant of some 33 million light-years.
To identify the supernova among the stars, you may need some help from the bottom picture, where it is marked by the two lines...

The other one, labelled SN2023bee, shown up in a more distant galaxy, NGC2708 (Hya), located some 85 million light-years away. Even so, at a magnitude of 13.4, it looks much brighter than "axu", hence evidencing a much more powerful stellar explosion... Hereafter we display a picture that we took near its maximum magnitude, followed by the marked view to identify the supernova :
Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - February 24th, 2023
Canon 60D at prime focus of SCT Meade LX200 16" reduced at f/6, ISO 4000, total exposure 14 minutes. North is up.

A private event at the observatory / edition 2023

After a hiatus due to the pandemic, we get back to the tradition of taking a picture of the sunset right behind the domes of the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO), allowed by a very precise alignment between the Sun, the CTIO, and our own observatory.

This "private event", visible exclusively from our observing room, happens twice a year (on November and February) : here are some views of the last February 8th event which, for the first time in years, displays some nice sunspots on the solar surface...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - February 8th, 2023
Canon 60D at prime focus of 71mm refractor f/5.3

Winter came, finally

Snowing is not common in our area, but when it happens, it does it well ! This year the winter was notably wet and cold, and we even got snow all around.

Here are some views of the observatory, the day after the snowy night...

Below, aerial view of the whole region surrounding the observatory.

Indeed, this is a good time for taking holidays, but we'll be back in September!

April 30th and May 16th : a doublet of solar and lunar eclipses...

Each eclipse of the Sun is unique, and every one is worth to watch, and this one didn't fail :despite being "only" a partial eclipse (24% deep at our location), it was fun to observe it on a sunny autumn day at the observatory...
The view below shows the aspect near the maximum, with the limb of the Moon simultaneously adjacent to the only two major sunspots visible on that moment.

The sun set with the eclipse still in progress, so we could appreciate the curious contrast between the curved border of the Moon, and the flat (!) silhouette of the Earth landscape.

Indeed, such a circumstance is a unique opportunity to witness the "New Moon set" : the view below captures the exact moment of the contact between Moon and Earth. Once again,it was worth to watch...

Keeping the alignement, we've been granted 2 weekd later by a total eclipse of the Moon, conveniently located high in the sky, in the first half of the night (May 15th to 16th), hence visible completely, in optimal conditions.

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - 2022
Canon 60D at prime focus of 71mm refractor f/5.3

The Open Cluster Messier 7

This is not really a popular target, but the young star cluster Messier 7 (M7), in the constellation of Scorpius, offers stunning view of the central areas of our galaxy, with countless stars and complex dark nebulae all together... The cluster itself is the group of a few tens of brighter stars spread all over an extended area around the centre of this view. The picture has been taken in the Full Moon night... but in the middle of the total phase of a lunar eclipse, hence in a conveniently dark sky !

Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - May, 15th, 2022
North is up

Every year has its bright supernova...

Indeed, supernovae in distant galaxies are rather common, but bright supernovae involved with a Messier galaxy are quite rare. A few weeks ago we've been granted with SN2022hrs, a type 1a supernova appeared on the border of NGC4647, a small galaxy adjacent to the large and bright M60, both galaxies lying some 60 million light-years away, in the constellation of Virgo.

The picture below shows this pair (M60 is the larger one), with the supernova appearing just in between as a tiny white dot very close to the nucleus of NGC4647. We captured it precisely when it peaked in brightness, reaching the remarquable magnitude of 12.4.

Incidentally, we can note that the spiral galaxy NGC4647 shows much more structures than the elliptical M60... Furthermore, the small elongated smudge at the lower right corner of the field is the galaxy NGC4638.

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - April 28th, 2022
Canon 60D at prime focus of SCT Meade LX200 16" reduced at f/6, ISO 4000, total exposure 25 minutes. North is up.

A very personal astronomical alignement

We know that the sunset shifts a little from day to day. On February, when viewed from our place, it happens behind the domes of the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO), one day exactly behind the main dome, the next day behind the smaller domes. On the following view we combined both, hence showing the dayly shift of the Sun in its annual path.

Sunsets over the CTIO seen from El Pangue, Feb. 7th. (left) and 8th. (right)
Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - February, 2022
Canon 60D at prime focus of 71mm refractor f/5.3

Comet Leonard !

It has been a long time since we had a nice comet visiting our skies, but on the last days of the year, comet Leonard (2020-A1) fulfills all expectations: it is visible to the naked eyes, it displays a complex tail on photographs, and through large telescopes it shows two bright colored jets from the nucleus...

On this picture, taken on the the evening of December, 23rd, we can appreciate the long and somehow complex tail developped by the comet.

The view below, taken earlier (December 21st), shows more precisely a curious detail in the head of the comet : note the irregular shape of the front of the coma, with a dark recessed triangular area instead of the usual parabolic design. This is due to the mentionned jets expelling gases from the nucleus, disposed symmetrically in a perpendicular configuration regarding the main comet axis. (click to enlarge)

Indeed, it is not so commom to be able to capture any detail of what's happening right around the proper nucleus of a comet, and this is maybe what makes C/ Leonard trully exceptional !


The comet arrived with a periodic orbit of around 80,000 years, but apparently it leaves with an hyperbolic orbit, that means an open, no-return path, so we've been lucky to be allowed to fully enjoy this short and one-time visit...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue - December, 2021
Canon 60D at prime focus of 71mm refractor f/5.3, ISO 4000, total exposure 22 minutes