La Serena, Chile

We are lodged up in La Serena at a private little house in a nice neighborhood and a little old chilean lady named Gladyis is running it. She is quite cool and helpful and there are two Irish chicks, Catherine and Louise, staying at the house. At 8 pm we went to the Elque valley about 70 km away where there are wolrd renowned observatories for watching the sky. The southern sky is quite clear here and this area of Chile is supposedly the best place in the southern hemisphere to see the stars. We went to Observatorio Mamalluca, which is the observatorio constructed for tourists and they had three or four big telescopes.

Paul and Louise bugged out on the trip last minute when I realized the price was actually 12000 pesos (about US$20) and not 2000 pesos as I had told them eariler. We drove around La Serena in the tour agency’s little minibus picking up other passengers, and dropping of passengers from the eariler tour to Isla Damas. There was an american family there, i think the parents were visiting their daughter who was studying in Santiago. There was another american girl there who was with her Spanish boyfriend. Then there was this Brit there named Andy, and then Me and Catherine. The ride up the valley was adventurous when a guy in a truck tried to pass us on a curvey road with on comming traffic staring him down… it was almost a nasty accident. We arrived a bit late and tagged on to a tour that had already started. the telescope was already set up and I just walked up and took a look and the first thing i saw was rings around saturn. It was really heavy. We also saw Jupiter and its 4 visible moons, a cluster of stars in the Sword of Orion, and our guide explained how to find south using the Southern Cross, and we looked at Alpha Centauri, Beta Centauri, and Omega Centauri which is a cluster of 1 million stars. It was INCREDIBLE. He also showed us some conventional constellations as well as some Incan constellations – very cool stuff. There is actually a Llama in the milky way! We got back late around 12:30 and drank some chilean wine and headed to bed.

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