miércoles, 14 de octubre de 2015

SOMETHING NEW IN PUBLIC ASTRONOMY...

ASTRONOMICAL TOURISM IN CHILE GETS A NEW KIND OF OFFERING : WATCH THE SUN IN LIVE !

On past June, 2014, the great solar observatory of Chile (in spanish Gran Observatorio Solar de Chile, or GOSCh) has been officially inaugurated, in Vicuña (Region of Coquimbo). This is a public facility entirely dedicated to the Sun watch, allowing the visitors to witness in live the constant activity of our star, and discover the solar surface in conditions never available before.

Observing the surface of the Sun requires a specific technology, quite distinct from the classical astronomical telescopes. Not only we must block the extreme luminosity of the Sun, but we got to select the convenient wavelenths of the sunlight, according to the successive features we want to see, and indeed there is plenty of them to watch, such as the famous darks spots, the long serpentine obscure filaments, the bright local eruptions, or the always stunning prominences escaping to open space.

Above : example of image obtained through an "H-alpha" telescope

Above : example of image obtained through a “White Glass” filter

The GOSCh offers a rare opportunity to watch the solar surface in optimal conditions, by hosting a Lunt Solar Systems, 230mm aperture H-alpha telescope (labelled LS230THa). This is an exceptional instrument, not only for its state-of-the-art "H-alpha" technology, but also for its size, namely the largest available of its kind in the world market. As a matter of fact, only 7 units of this model have been produced, and this one is the only one in the whole Latin America.

The telescope allows a stunning and unusual vision of the constantly "boiling" solar surface that always displays the dark, long so-called filaments, as well as the bright plages, that correspond to compact areas of extremely high temperatures. Of course we can see also the red, fast evolving prominences emerging from the Sun limb. Occasionally giant mass coronal ejections can be watched too, those powerful eruptions of plasma material that frequently outpasses the size of Earth!... On the same platform the observatory also hosts an Explore Scientific, 152mm aperture refractor telescope specifically mounted for watching in high contrast the famous sunspots, those black compact magnetic storms that change from day to day. In total the GOSCh allows the visitors to discover the full set of the varied and complex activity of the Sun.

As to get an idea of the kind of spectacle offered, you can watch this video : despite coming from the NASAS's SOHO space probe, the images shown in the video render quite accurately what you will actually see through the telescopes, including the changes in the shape of the prominences, that can be easily witnessed in a few minuts.

Initially planned for the capital city Santiago, and lately desired in San Pedro de Atacama, we finally succeed to make the GOSCh installed in Vicuña, a small town nestled within the Elqui Valley, some 64km (4 mi.) east of La Serena. This location has been selected both for the renowned local sky quality, and for the great amount of tourists that permanently visit the many observatories in the area. Conveniently located near the city centre, and granted with a moderate cost entrance fee, the GOSCh is intended to allow a varied public to access at high level Sun watch, such as tourists, educational personnel, or experienced visitors.

Also it must be emphasized that many people will surely appreciate the opportunity of enjoying a daytime activity, in an area where touristic offers mostly point at nighttime observatory visits...

Above: the observatory in broad construction (June 2014)

Above: the same one, a little bit more achieved...(december 2014)

Above: the telescopes have been just installed

Above: detail of the computarized mount

The GOSCh was funded by private foreign capital, but its management have been entrusted to "Astronómica del Sur Ltda.", a chilean company specialized in astronomical projects, that is already running the well known Observatorio del Pangue. This implies that the GOSCh will benefit of a serious and professional treatment, and that the visitors will enjoy in the best way this new and entertaining offer from Chile.

Lastly, it is assumed that this facility, one of its kind in Latin America, will contribute to promote the image of the country in astronomy: indeed every body knows that Chile is a world leader in terms of scientific astronomy (hosting the largest current series of giant telescopes), but still there is a long way to go as to improve its position in astronomical tourism, and there is no doubt that the GOSCh might help considerably to the task.

Map of Vicuña, showing access to the GOSCh when coming from La Serena

lunes, 12 de octubre de 2015

THE PRACTICAL INFO

Click here for all the practical details about the visits at the G.O.S.Ch. : contents, prices, times, how to get there, etc...

BEFORE THE G.O.S.Ch.

TRANSIT OF VENUS 2012 : MISSION ACCOMPLISHED !

We are pleased to announce that the staff of Astronomica del Sur Ltda. (ADSL) is the only chilean delegation that successfully observed the last Transit of Venus in front of the Sun, an historical event that took place in June 5th, 2012, and will not repeat before the year 2117 ! On that purpose, the ADSL Expedition had to go to Australia, since the phenomenon was not visible from continental Chile and only partially visible from Eastern Island.



Photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue
Camera Nikon D3100, prime focus of Lunt 152mm H-alpha telescope, processed from several exposures.

This 2-colour sequence shows the progression of Venus through the solar disk, starting at North East (rights views), ending at North West (left views). The complete transit lasted for some 6.5 hours. The central views correspond to the maximum phase of the event, that is when Venus is at its closer distance to the centre of the Sun disk.

Many groups from all over the world organized expeditions to watch the phenomenon, either part, or all of it, but very few had the opportunity to observe the entire event: therefore the ADSL Expedition staff is proud to emphasize that this initiative, raised from private personal and financial efforts, succeeded to avoid that Chile, indeed an important country for astronomy, remains excluded from such a selective list...