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Visiting Universidad Catolica Observatory

Only on the second day of my arrival in Chile (Jan 13, 2017) I found myself traveling from Valparaiso to Santiago to go to the Universidad Catolica Observatory (long title: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile), for spectroscopic observations (of bright Be stars).

Just in case you do not know where you are.

It is located about 50-60km from Santiago at an altitude of 1450m (and within the property of Hacienda Santa Martina – a private resort), so not in the darkest skies of Chile. It is a small facility which houses basically 2 telescopes, an instrument room, a control room, a small museum, a medium-sized seminar rooms, and a tiny kitchen with solely one bed to sleep. Practically people go overnight from Santiago to observe.

The front side of the UC Observatory.

The telescopes operating during the night (and… that’s why the extra noise in the photo!).

The main dome houses two telescopes, the ESO 50cm and the Tololo 40cm, and the main instrument is an echelle spectrograph (PUCHEROS) with a good outcome given the instrument and sight restrictions (see publications).

The telescopes inside the dome: the ESO 50cm in front and the Tololo 40cm in the back.

The ESO 50cm.

The ESO telescopes and part of the weight balance system.

The Tololo 40cm telescope, along with some accessories.

We came from Valparaiso for only one night of observations, so the dedication is more than obvious.

As I was not directly involved with the observations I had time to play around with my cameras. This resulted in this time-lapse video from inside the dome, that shows how the ESO telescope is slewing from one target to the next after each exposure. [Some details: GoPro 4 silver, set at 10s exposure, and running from 22:25:34 (Jan 13, 2017) up to 00:31:18 (Jan 14), video @25fps – edited with Blender.]

Universidad Catolica Observatory night sky time-lapse

However, I haven’t been fortunate enough to go to the big toys yet, and I hope that this will change in the near future (not much time is left anyways…).