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Six Months Observing Upside Down

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#1 bunyon

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 12:18 PM

Traveling to the southern hemisphere is a topic that pops up frequently on Cloudynights and other amateur astronomy discussion groups where northern observers and imagers congregate. I’ve written this piece to try to share some of what I learned about doing amateur astronomy in Chile and Argentina. Obviously, even in six months it is impossible to do everything or go everywhere so this isn’t a comprehensive guide. Still, I hope it’s helpful and that it inspires a few people who have been wavering in their decision to head south.

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#2 Schubert

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 01:58 PM

Such a great read, and it´s so true.
Goosebumps again, when I think of the night I couldn´t sleep in San Salvador.
So I walked into the courtyard of my dad´s expat-home where I stayed for 2 weeks.
Gazed up over the brightly lit metropolis and saw Scorpius, high up in the south.
Way higher than I ever saw it from Northern Europe.
Von Humboldt was so right
Every amateur-astronomer owes it to himself to make a trip down south.


 


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#3 Stanleyf

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 03:39 PM

Great and extremely useful article.  Thanks so much!!


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#4 Scott in NC

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 06:55 PM

Wonderful story, Paul--thanks so much for sharing that!


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#5 CounterWeight

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 07:12 PM

Fantastic article, "well done!", thank you very much!


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#6 R_Huntzberry

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 10:58 PM

Great read! This is what Cloudy Nights is all about waytogo.gif


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#7 Astronought

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 09:58 PM

Great, I mean GREAT read, Paul!  Two thumbs up.


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#8 nicknacknock

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 01:33 AM

Captivating reading indeed Paul. Thanks for sharing :) 


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#9 jwheel

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 10:25 AM

Great article!


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#10 bunyon

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 08:57 PM

Thanks everyone. I really appreciate it. I basically had to write this. 



#11 RickV

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Posted 05 September 2017 - 11:56 AM

An excellent article, a great read, personal yet packed with useful information.  Thanks!


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#12 Scott99

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 02:17 PM

Wow, this report is absolutely fantastic, probably the best one I've read on this website.  Thanks so much for all the useful information, on a subject we've all wondered about.


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#13 Mabalis

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 08:17 PM

Amazing.  Great article, writing, insights, pictures, and more.  As a newbie, this is a side of Astronomy I did not know existed. You are also quite the intrepid traveler!  Thanks for sharing!

 

- Mabalis


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#14 Tyson M

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 01:00 PM

What an incredible experience!

 

Thanks for taking the time to go in depth with your experiences to share with us.  Particularly the travel tips - very useful.

 

I have to see the southern skies at least once.


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#15 Calypte

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Posted 08 September 2017 - 03:24 AM

Great article!  Isn't the Hacienda the place that was operated by the late Daniel Verschatse?  What will happen to it?


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#16 bunyon

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Posted 08 September 2017 - 07:58 AM

Thanks again those who commented after my first thanks.  Yes, everyone should see the southern sky (and southerners should see the north!).  The South really is better.  We're "north" of the Milky Way, after all.  Selfishly, I wish it weren't so.

 

Calypte: Yes, the Hacienda was Daniel's. He died just as I was leaving and I missed the email from the Santiago club.  That is a big blow, I'm sure, to the Hacienda both in business terms and, more importantly, human terms. I didn't meet Daniel and was told it was because he was ill but I didn't get the impression they were that worried. Though, of course, there is no reason they would tell a simple guest something like that.  Everyone at the Hacienda spoke lovingly and admiringly about him as did the folks in the Santiago club.  

 

As to how his passing affects the Hacienda, I don't know.  Pure, wild speculation on my part is that his widow (who, I understand, is Chilean and lives in Santiago) will sell and it is impossible to say at this point if a new buyer would be interested in keeping it going as an astronomy focused inn. I hope so. Ideally, I'd hope folks in the Santiago club could buy it but that is even wilder speculation on my part.  I suspect it is a solid business as just an inn and astronomy-only lodges are a tough go. There just aren't that many people who both want to and can get away to a place like that to rent telescopes. Like most of these places, the real money, such as it is, is probably in setting up remote scopes for online imaging.  It isn't nearly as romantic but will have a much wider audience.

 

I should add, I didn't mention the Santiago club at all in my piece. I joined the club for half a year when I arrived but wound up much busier on weekends than I'd anticipated and was away doing the things I wrote about at new moon weekends.  As it happened, there was never a single Saturday that was both clear and saw me free so I never joined them for their weekly Saturday observation. The one time I visited their observatory, I found it in a beautiful spot and the members very friendly.  If you're going to be there for a long while, they're definitely worth checking out and I'm really sorry I didn't get a chance to join them more.  



#17 jrbarnett

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Posted 10 September 2017 - 05:58 PM

Dios mio!

 

Que maravilloso.

 

Gracias,

 

Diego


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#18 SonnyE

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 10:27 AM

What a wonderful, and Wonder-filled, trip you've chronicled.

As our Daughter-In-Law is half Chilean, her Father, Washington (named by the Chilean Government because he is a seventh Son. And 7th Son's are named by the Government in Chile.) He and I share a love of the Night Skies.

I would dearly love to spend time in his native land with him, which he left as a young man to immigrate to the United States. But likely never will venture to Chile. 

But thank you for sharing your wonderful travels to the Southern Skies!

What an Adventure!


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#19 stubeeef

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Posted 17 September 2017 - 11:42 AM

GOBSTOPPING and GOBSMACKED!

Going to have to read again and again, I look forward to a trip like this, if even just a brief version.


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#20 JohnAkai

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Posted 17 September 2017 - 10:18 PM

bunyon, Great travelogue! Thanks for the tip about Hacienda. It was just great, just as you stated...Good-to-know about the potential change of ownership / mission. I am booked for next March at Hacienda. I'll contact Elke to ensure that Hacienda will still be in operation. Mario


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#21 bunyon

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Posted 19 September 2017 - 07:23 AM

What a wonderful, and Wonder-filled, trip you've chronicled.

As our Daughter-In-Law is half Chilean, her Father, Washington (named by the Chilean Government because he is a seventh Son. And 7th Son's are named by the Government in Chile.) He and I share a love of the Night Skies.

I would dearly love to spend time in his native land with him, which he left as a young man to immigrate to the United States. But likely never will venture to Chile. 

But thank you for sharing your wonderful travels to the Southern Skies!

What an Adventure!

 

I hope you get a chance as well.  Given your ties, it would be a fascinating trip.  I can only guess at the ages involved but suspect leaving for the USA my have involved some urgency on the part of your daughter-in-law's father.  Folks I know who lived and worked in Chile in the 80s say they barely recognize the place, especially Santiago.  It sounds like a family trip would be fun and interesting on a lot of levels.  



#22 bunyon

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Posted 19 September 2017 - 07:25 AM

bunyon, Great travelogue! Thanks for the tip about Hacienda. It was just great, just as you stated...Good-to-know about the potential change of ownership / mission. I am booked for next March at Hacienda. I'll contact Elke to ensure that Hacienda will still be in operation. Mario

 

Mario,

Thanks! I was really glad to read your comments on Vicuna because that is where I was planning to go the weekend I went to Rivadavia. I spent a little time there and can definitely see how you encountered some light pollution.  It was a much larger village than I expected from reading online.  I look forward to hearing about your March trip to the Hacienda and hope it comes off. I wish them very well, somewhat selfishly as I really want to go back someday.  Please give us a report when you're there.  Cheers, Paul



#23 bunyon

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Posted 19 September 2017 - 07:30 AM

Thanks again for the kind words.  

 

I didn't write any about my non-astronomy travels, which were extensive, because, obviously, it isn't really germane to Cloudynights.  But this was, by far, the longest I've been away from home and it didn't end up feeling like a normal trip.  For one, I worked, and hard, for most of the time.  For two, I never really had time to process so there are a lot of things that I forgot about almost instantly that would have been a key memory of a normal vacation.  I took some stuff to the dump this weekend and had a profound flashback to getting lost in the mountains outside Pucon and happening upon a dump.  But a dump that had one of the most magnificent views of any place I've ever been, just with an extensive junk yard and landfill in front of it.  

 

Anyway, I suspect that sort of thing will continue happening.  



#24 JohnAkai

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Posted 19 September 2017 - 04:02 PM

Comments for Chile, March 2017: Yes! to renting a car @ airport. As noted, you are going to have to drive to dark skies! Get a 4-wheel drive, so you can go off-road. I was surprised to be able to drive at 70km/hr on the hard-packed dirt tertiary roads. Most cars are 4-speed manual, so practice on an old VW before arriving. I killed my engine twice before remembering to use the clutch, LOL...The main road is HWY 5 and is a joy to drive, except for the toll booths. Keep your receipts. I got off at the wrong exit, but was allowed to continue for free by presenting my last receipt. Love those "autobahn stops."...Safety -- no problem, just follow common sense. Be sure to park your car INSIDE the fence of your property. In Vicuna, I was out late several nights. I parked alongside the central square and was gratified to see police patrols guarding the other 60 cars also parked there...Earthquakes, Yes! I experienced a 5.6. No damage at all -- Life on the Ring of Fire!...Bus, No! Sky and LATAM, Yes! Spend money to save time...Pelican case with travel kit: TAK FC76D objective and FS60C focuser. EPs: 24, 18, 12 and 9. Zykos tripod, alt-az mount. Will rent a 12.5 in. Portaball @ Hacienda...The reference is to NGC4945. NGC 4995 is a classic spiral galaxy seen face-on...From La Serena I could just see Rigel Kent, Hadar, Crux and False Cross. Eta Carinae was a blurr, but Canopus & Sirius shone like mighty beacons. Orion was downside up. It was impossible to see the LMC & SMC...I was the CNer staying @ Vicuna. The Vicuna light dome was manageable, but a bit annoying, since I expected darker skies. Example: I could well see Crux, but had difficulty dicerning the entire mass of the Coal Sack. When I observed from the Pengue observatory, I was finally able see that the Coal Sack has 3 main lobes...Along the hard-packed back roads, I met several couples driving campers. A (wealthy) Austrian couple shipped a VERY fancy Toyota camper to Buenos Aires and had driven as far as Hurtado. They just camped in the desert and enjoyed the pristine andean night skies. They were headed to Peru via Bolivia. They would store their Toyota in Lima and return in 2018 to continue their voyage...Australia is just too far & too expensive to reach. Using frequent flier miles on American Airlines First Class: 370K miles to Sydney, but only 220K miles to Santiago...I think light pollution is spreading all over the world and negatively affecting choice viewing spots in both northern and southern hemispheres...So, come on down to Chile before the light pollution becomes intolerable.



#25 JohnAkai

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Posted 19 September 2017 - 08:53 PM

I just got an e-mail from Elke. Hacienda continues with the same mission and equipment into 2018! My reservation is confirmed.




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