Star Gazing in the Atacama Desert


My dear friend Nathan, had recommended one particular tour whilst in San Pedro, known as the French Astrologer. Although I have never really been into astrology as a child, given his strong recommendation I was actually quite excited and was looking forward to having another attempt at learning more about the stars and more generally our solar system (hopefully this Frenchie would have more luck at getting through to me than my awful physics teacher,Mr Archer, did so many years ago).

Initially we were told that the tour was not taking place due to the fact that a full moon was only days away, as such the tours were normally suspended for around a week at this time due to the lack of visibility. Luckily we were able to get onto the last day of tour before they shut down. My first impression of the tour really did bring me back to those days in the science lab, being board out of my mind, not really following what’s was being said and too petrified to ask a question.

What was marketed as a French expert providing the tours was in fact a Canadian with all the trappings of being an American; an overwhelming sense of superiority over any would-be astrologer with the need to joke about any wrong answer given during the group history lesson section of the tour. To make matters worse he insisted on making inappropriate innuendoes at any given opportunity making the already on edge group even more uncomfortable.

In a shear stroke of brilliance he abruptly ended his piss take of anyone who thought Pluto was in fact a planet ( which supposedly it isn’t!) by excusing himself before running to the lodge completely out of the blue forcing the real French astrologer to pick up where he had left off. Given his obvious popularity amongst the group, rumours soon spread that he had a bout of diarrhoea which made it even more gratifying. Unfortunately he returned five minutes later only to inform us that he thought he had a deadly spider in his jacket and had to quickly get undressed in fear of being bitten. It was in fact a figment of his imagination, however this didn’t do much for my imagination; spending the remainder of the tour paranoid that I could feel a spider crawling up my leg! I only have two words for this guy…DICK HEAD!

The fear aside, I did find the rest of the tour really interesting, particularly the second part of the tour which involved us looking through 9 pre set telescopes.

Unfortunately we couldn’t take any pictures thorough the lenses (apart from the final one specially set up to take pictures of the moon) so i have attached some images from the internet of what we saw.

1. The moon close up- unlike the face that we see in the Northern hemisphere, this actually looks like a bunny rabbit this side of the equator.

2. Jupiter- this appears to be the brightest star next to the moon. We were lucky enough to see it at a point where there was a small black dot on it which was the shadow cast by o e of it’s 4 moons.

3. Sirius – the brightest star in the sky with a blueish tinge.

4. The 7 beautiful sisters or in ‘geek’- Pleiades

5. The small Magellanic cloud – FYI there are two (one is larger) and they simply look like dull patches in the night skye. They are in fact two other galaxies that are companions to our milky way….making me think that E.T could actually be true after all!

This was even more special since we can’t see this in the Northern hemisphere

6. Close up of the moon and it’s creators ( this is from Dre’s camera )

7. A cluster of 6 million stars (my favourite)

8. Betelgeuse (pronounced Beetle Juice) – the second brightest star in the constellation Orion with a red tinge

9. Sword of Orion

We also had some other constellations pointed out to us.

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By garyabela Posted in Chile

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