6.07.2019 – Dreams come true

Ilgonis is writing:
When I found out that Agnese was planning an eclipse expedition to Chile, the first thought that came to mind: would it be possible to visit the Paranal Observatory? That day has come, unfortunately, we only have reservation for 2 persons, but we are 8.

In the morning, after a rather fine breakfast – sausages boiled with electric heater in a metal cup, immersing them just like a slowing rods of a nuclear reactor, we go to the northest point of our journey – the Tropic of Capricorn. Here begins a zone where the sun can be at the zenith. It extends across the equator to the Tropic of Cancer. This place near the Road No. 5 is marked by the massive structure that looks like an arch of triumph. We’re making a group photo.

In the Antofagasta, on the shore of the ocean, we visit a naturally formed stone arch of rocks situated in a beautiful bay with great waves. We still had enough time to watch seals and pelicans in the busy fishing port, where many colored boats are anchored. Then we go for a 2-hour drive away from the ocean to Cerro Paranal. We arrive in time. Yess! Agnese manages to make sure everyone can go to visit Very Large Telescope.

Buses quickly take up some 100 touring members on the mountaintop. The first stop is at the Residence, where astronomers stay between the observations. As the air is very dry at the 2600 m altitude of Cerro Paranal, a moist tropical environment has been created here. Then we go to the four huge 8.2-meter telescope domes. Their names in mapuche language means: the Sun, the Moon, the Southern Cross and Venus. A halo is seen above the telescope dome. I took a lot of pictures of this unique place where I had long wanted to go.

Then we enter into the dome of the 8.2 m telescope. Telescope itself is a huge scientific machine. There are big structural pipes, several mirrors, including the main mirror, as big as the dance floor, a lot of wires and hardware. Our group asks a lot of questions, I don’t need it, I just enjoy the view and take pictures. Here, too, we make a group photo. In the telescope control room guides explain us how the observations are done.

With a sense of fulfillment, we go down. The three big goals of this trip – to observe the full eclipse of the Sun, to reach the Monturaqui meteorite crater and to visit the Paranal Observatory, have been achieved. In the afternoon we travel nearly 500 km to Copiapo, where we arrive late in the evening. On the way we stopped to see a fantastic sunset on the shore of the ocean.

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