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Click here to link to the original site "Astronomy Picture of the Day".

Cliquer ici pour accéder à la version française "Image Astronomique du Jour".


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...