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Comet Wirtanen fulfills expectations

The comet 46P/ Wirtanen reached its perigee on December, 16th, approaching Earth at less than 12 million kilometers. Such a circumstance uses to be the best time to observe a comet but it wasn't in this case, due to the presence in the sky of a bright Moon... But the comet is getting as bright as sheduled, so the spectacle might go on for a few days after the moonlight nights, that will be in the last week of December.

Meanwhile we took a picture of the comet some days ago (before the coming of the Moon...) and still it displayed a round, bright, and particularely dense coma, which extended for over 40': yes, that's more than the apparent size of the Full Moon ! In the next days, its apparent size and brightness should make it an easy naked eye target: it will pass very close to the bright star Capella (Auriga) by December 24th, then heading to the Gemini constellation for most of January. Don't miss that opportunity to observe it, since spectacular comets tend to be scarce...

Below: comet Wirtanen on December, 10th.

Below: for comparison, comet Wirtanen on November, 9th., taken under the same circumstances...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue
Camera: Canon EOS 60D, at prime focus of Meade 16" LX200 scope

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...


December 2018: the return of the great comets ?...

It has been a long time since we observed spectacular comets in our skies, however a series of bright comets is announced to visit us, among which is 46P/ Wirtanen, expected to reach magnitude 3.0 by late December, that would make it easily visible to the naked eye !
As an "avant-premiere", we captured it when still faint but easy to find, quietly running across the Fornax constellation: on the below picture we can distinguish the prominent nucleus, together with a still reduced, but quite promising, dense coma.

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - November, 8th, 2018
Camera: Canon EOS 60D, exposure: 20 seconds

Earlier on that same night, the heavens displayed this peaceful view of the thin crescent Moon (illuminated disk 2% only) ready to set close to the Observatorio Tololo, silhouetted to the right, while the bright spot to the far left is ...planet Jupiter! Note also the full disk of the Moon, visible as a faint dark area completing the white crescent...

Photos: Cristian Valenzuela/Observatorio del Pangue - November, 8th, 2018

August, the lost month...

The Universe never takes a break, but astronomers do. So we were closed for the whole month of August: sorry for the many of you who requested booking on these past days... However we never completely remove astronomy from our schedules, as shown in the following pictures.

Thanks to astrophysicists Dominique Proust, who organized it, and Regis Courtin who performed it, we've been granted with a private visit at the Meudon Observatory, a great research institute for astrophysics located near Paris (France) that hosts (among many telescopes) a historical refractor, still one of the largest in the world...

Of course we then made the inevitable visit at the Eiffel Tower, but we adorned it with the rise of the full Moon: can you see the "tiny" round reddish spot close to the left feet of the tower? Such views demostrate, if necessary, that the "huge" apparent size of the rising Moon is a pure illusion...

In Prague (Czech Republic) we got plenty of stunning views of this outstanding city: on the night picture of King's Charles bridge, look for the bright dot shining alone in the sky: this is planet Mars, near opposition ! (Next is a day view, for better appreciating the city skyline)

There are countless wonders in Prague, but we even managed to find some other interesting spots, such as the living house of astronomer Johannes Kepler (below), and the one of physicist Christian Doppler (far below): yes, both of them made the largest part of their famous works in this town!...

At some point, Eric managed to spend some time in his ancestral land, in Asturias (Northern Spain): at a street corner of Gijón, he casually glimpsed the thin crescent Moon, resting for a few moments atop a local monument...

Cristian instead selected to visit Venice (Italy): no need of any astronomical views here, the city is fascinating enough by itself...

Back to Paris, the "tour" ended by a well deserved rest in a quite famous seat: the actual Iron Throne from the popular HBO series "Game of Thrones", exhibited there for a few days (Game of Thrones - The Touring Exhibition - Paris 2018)

...Cristian seems to feel more comfortable than the seven contenders...

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 :

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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.

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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