Articles tagged with "chile"

Cerro San Cristóbal – the final descent

In November I’d set the 5th fastest time on Strava for the descent from Antilén to Pedro de Valdivia. I wanted the fastest time but in December I’d crashed heavily while on course to set it. After that, I had a few rides where I was way slower around the corners before recovering my confidence, and eventually I managed to set some times within a second or two of my best.

On January 20th, I was emigrating from Chile, and in the runup to that I was desperately trying to at least break my personal best. On January 18th things had been going well until a car pulled out in front of me and forced me to slow down. January 19th felt like a good one but at Mapulemu I’d collided with a bird which didn’t get out of my way in time. And I thought that was the last chance gone, as the removal company was supposed to come that day to take my stuff. Luckily, they screwed up and had the wrong date. They couldn’t come until 20th, which caused all sorts of chaos and stress, but at least it meant I had one final chance at the record. I was on a mission, determined to give it everything, and to have no possible regret about not trying hard enough.

I set off at 7.30am, wanting the roads to be quiet. I had a great warmup ride up Bicentenario to La Piramide, and I was feeling fantastic as I climbed up to Antilén. I pushed hard for the last bit of the climb and carried a lot of speed over the brow of the hill. It was a beautiful morning, perfect for riding. I kept my speed high down towards Mapulemu, not dropping below 30mph. I took Mapulemu better than ever before and avoiding crashing this time. At the lower hairpins, there was no traffic and no other cyclists so I took wide lines and carried tonnes of speed through. I was sure I was on for the record.

Right at the exit, they were watering the grass and there was a slick of water across the road. I was too into what I was doing to take much notice and powered across it. The tarmac stops at that point and there are cobbles for a few metres before the gate. I shot across the water and onto the cobbles at well over 30mph, and as I braked and turned for the exit, I lost it.

My first crash came as quite a surprise for me but this one didn’t. I was very calm as I flew towards the tarmac, although I was desperately wishing I could turn the clock back just a few seconds and avoid what I knew was coming. I hit my head quite hard and scraped horribly along the cobbles, coming to a stop about 10m from where I’d come off. My ears were ringing, I was covered in blood and it took me a few seconds to start getting up.

It was worse than my first crash but after a few minutes I was OK to ride home. I set off, blood dripping from my hand. I couldn’t bring myself to look at it until I got home but it turned out I’d sliced a chunk of skin off the top of my finger. I’d scraped myself all up my right arm, and my right ankle was also bleeding quite badly.

But the worst damage was to my phone. It had been in my pocket but it was deeply scratched all over, and to my horror it wouldn’t turn on. I tried and tried but it was dead. I’d killed it. My strava data was in it and would never come out. I will never know if I actually set a record.


Towards La Leonera

Towards La Leonera

Cerro La Parva

Cerro La Parva

Farellones

Farellones

On Christmas Day I’d tried to cycled to Farellones, but given up after starting to get cramp due to dehydration on a savagely hot day. On New Year’s Day I tried again.

Again I planned to leave extremely early, and again I failed, but I failed a little bit less badly and I was on the road at 8.15am. And whereas last week I’d had the feeling quite early on in the ride that I might not make it, this week I felt right from the start that it was going to go well. It was strange to cycle the same route again so soon and a lot of the way to Corral Quemado felt pretty boring, but much easier than it had last week. Then, I had expected there to be lots of cyclists and there were almost none; this week I thought there would not be many and there were quite a few.

I got to Corral Quemado a bit more quickly than I had done last week. The weather was perfect, sunny and clear but still cool by 10am when I got there. So now the hard work started, and it was awesome. I powered up the first 8 curves, as last week, then found the section to curve 9 far easier and powered up the next 6 as well. Then began the long slow drag up to curve 15, which was way easier than last week, with no dehydration or cramp to contend with. I got to Yerba Loca at curve 15 and stopped to fill up my water bottles. There were a couple of other cyclists there, and some people out for a new year drive. “Tired?”, one of them asked me. “Nope”, I said. “Arrogant jerk”, he probably thought. But it was true. I didn’t feel at all tired and I knew I was going to make it to the top.

I refilled my water bottles and headed on. Things got tougher, with fewer hairpins and more long harsh gradients. And here there were lots of huge and vicious flies, which kept on biting me. I kept on wondering why I had a sudden sharp pain in my knuckles, only to look down and see another fat fly biting me through my gloves. But they were easy to deal with, unable to disengage before I swatted them. I must have killed hundreds.

After a long slow ride up with few hairpins, I reached curve 26, two miles from Farellones. I was getting slow at this point, tired but really loving the climb. 40 minutes after curve 26, I got to Farellones.

I had some lunch and then headed down. It had taken me 4h45m to get from my house to Farellones, and it took me 1h45m to get back. 3200m of climbing was a great way to start 2016.

Strava log

Video

Sadly the camera’s memory card filled up and the video stops at turn 28


Curva 15 en el camino a Farellones

Curva 15 en el camino a Farellones

On Christmas Day, I decided to cycle to Farellones, a ski resort outside Santiago. The road climbs slowly from around 600m above sea level in Santiago to 1350m above sea level at Corral Quemado, and then things get serious – 40 hairpins in 10 miles to go from 1350m to 2400m up.

My idea was to leave at 6am. El Niño had given us a way worse summer than usual and there had been lots of cool cloudy days where there is normally unbroken sunshine for months. But it was a proper summer day today, and if I left too late it would be much too hot for a serious uphill cycle. But… I got up at 6am, and thought I would sleep for just a few more minutes, and woke up at 9am. Then I needed to make some adjustments to the bike, and prepare some food and drink, and I didn’t manage to leave until 11am.

It was warm already. The streets were deserted, which made the ride out to the start of the road to Farellones pretty relaxing, but early on in the ride I knew I’d made a mistake by leaving so late. Even by the time I got to Mallsport, 7 miles from my house and about 200m up, I was feeling pretty thirsty and pretty tired.

The start of the road to Farellones is pretty easy, gently rising for a few miles. The first real test was just after Puente Ñilhue, where I’d set out to climb Provincia in July 2014 and October 2016. Here, the road climbed steeply for a few hundred metres, and I had to drop down quite a few gears. Generally the gradients were not savage but I just didn’t feel that great. After about an hour and three quarters, I stopped for a break and to check how far it was to the start of the hairpins. I found that I was only a mile away, and psyched myself up for the real work.

I reached the hairpins. By now it was really hot but at first I felt great. The hairpins were easy – just a short sharp climb, then an easy flat bit until the next one. I powered through 8 of them with no problem. But after that it got tougher, with a long slow steep climb until curve 9. By now, all my water was disgustingly warm and I didn’t have much left. I began to doubt I’d make it.

I kept on pushing. By curve 14 I was suffering, and beginning to cramp a bit. I knew there was water at curve 15, but there’s a huge gap between curves 14 and 15, where the road just climbs relentlessly, at a gradient of about 7.5 per cent. About half way along it, I decided I was going to have to call it a day. I was getting too dehydrated to carry on, and I really didn’t want to get crippled by cramp out here. So I reluctantly turned around and headed home.

The petrol station at the start of the Farellones road was pretty much the only thing open in Santiago. I was incredibly glad it was because I had long since run out of water by the time I got there, and the last bits in my bottle had actually been hot. I bought a lot of liquid, and the last half hour back home was a lot more fun than the descent up until that point.

It was a shame not to have got further but I knew I’d left too late to make it. 41.1 miles and 2000m of climbing was still an OK effort, I thought.

Strava log


San Cristóbal crash

Ever since I realised that I was actually a good downhill cyclist, I’d been trying to set the fastest time on Strava for the descent from Antilén to Pedro de Valdivia. My personal best was 7 seconds slower than the overall best time. Today I went for a late cycle over the hill, and felt good on the way up. When I got to Antilén, the roads were quiet as the park had already officially closed, so I had a really good chance to set a new personal best at least.

I powered down the hill. All the way to Mapulemu I felt like I was on for a record. Looking at Strava later I was actually 6 seconds up on my previous best time and 3 seconds up on the overall fastest, with half the run still to go. Surely I could do it.

There’s a sharp left turn at Mapulemu. I knew that it was the curves where I needed to carry a lot of speed through to have a chance at the record. I leaned heavily and attempted the curve at a faster speed than I’d taken it before, and suddenly I lost grip. The back wheel slid out, and suddenly I was on the floor, rasping across the tarmac.

I came to a stop pretty quickly, luckily without hitting anything else. Two people who I’d overtaken just moments earlier came to see if I was OK. It was a very, very stupid crash and I felt pretty silly. I also had some physical damage, some savage road rash and a nasty cut on my ankle. But after a couple of minutes I’d caught my breath and got back on the bike to painfully head home and clean myself up. It was an epic fail for record breaking and I decided I was, as I’d previously thought, not very good at downhill cycling.

Strava log


Cerro Pintor

Cerro Pintor

Valle de las Arenas

Valle de las Arenas

I’d been up the Valle de las Arenas before and it had been awesome. I’d wanted to go back for ages, and this weekend some friends were in the mood for a hike, so we decided to head up there.

It was incredibly different to my last trip. In late autumn, the valley was barren and we could drive a long way up it, so that we only had a couple of hours to hike to get to the glacier. Today we had to start from a lot further back, firstly because after a very rainy winter, the valley was still full of snow. And secondly because there was now a huge building site at the foot of the valley. There had just been a few portacabins there 18 months ago but now the road was blocked, and a sign said that cars needed permission to pass. We didn’t, so we parked and hiked up the valley from there. It was a fantastic hike in the thick snow.

Strava log


Via Roja and Cerro Manquehue

Via Roja and Cerro Manquehue

I climbed Manquehue two years ago, when my back was still fragile after surgery. That time, we’d climbed from La Piramide via a route that goes most of the way to the top of Cerro Carbón. Today, with a friend who often visits Chile and loves getting out into the hills, I tried the route via Via Roja.

The route via Carbón had taken us about 4 hours in total to get to the top at a very relaxed pace. Starting from Via Roja was supposed to take less than 2 hours. I arranged to meet my friend at 11am, and I thought I would cycle to the start of the climb. I set off at about 10.30, and by 11am I was on Via Roja, a mile and a half from where we were meeting. But what I hadn’t checked was how high the end of Via Roja actually was. It’s just over 1000m above sea level, so I had a 400m ascent to do. It was a great ascent but tough going with an average gradient of 7.5%. By the time I reached the end of the road, my friend and her friends had got bored of waiting and set off.

So I set off on my own. It was an amazingly steep climb, much tougher than the route via Carbón, but also much quicker, and after an hour and a half I got to the top, not too far behind my friends.

Going down was much tougher on the loose and slippery ground. We somehow ended up a little way from the route we’d taken on the way up, on a much steeper and more precarious path. So it took pretty much exactly the same time to get down as it had to go up. The cycling was a different story. It took me about a quarter of the time to go back down Via Roja as it had to go up it, and I carried the momentum all the way home. In total it took me 5.5 hours to get from my house to the top of the mountain and back.

Strava log


The summit at last

The summit at last

I got up early the next morning, and was on the way up the trail to the top at 6.30am. It was a cool morning and I knew I’d made a good decision stopping for the night instead of climbing in the hot afternoon. I made fast progress, and by 8am I was at the only difficult bit of the climb, a rocky section over a narrow ridge. It wasn’t always easy to see the best way over, and I was really glad I had gone down to San Carlos de Apoquindo last year instead of continuing in the dark. It would not have been nice trying to clamber over the rocks by torchlight.

On the other side, it was a short and easy walk to the summit. I got there before 9am and felt happy to have finally got here. It had been my target for four years.

I headed down. By 11.30 I was back at my camp, and I packed up. At 12, three friends passed by – they were climbing in the one day while I’d preferred to spend a night camping. I said hi to them and carried on down. The way to San Carlos was steep and dusty, and with only one pole it was miserable going. I kept on slipping and progress was slow. Just after I’d slipped yet again and put my hand into a thorny bush, I met another friend who was heading to Alto del Naranjo. I feigned enjoyment, and carried on down. I ran out of water before I got to San Carlos and was incredibly thirsty when I arrived. Luckily there was a tap there and I drank several litres before heading home. I drank many more when I got there.

Strava log


A good campsite

A good campsite

I found a great place to camp, with no-one else around. It was really nice to be up in the Sierra de Ramón with awesome views of the city. And even though I was nearly 2000m above sea level, it was still a warm night. I watched the sunset, saw the city light up, and the stars coming out, and after that I slept well.


Provincia

Provincia

I’d tried to climb Provincia before with three friends, but we’d set off too late in the day and only got as far as Alto del Naranjo before lack of daylight stopped further progress. A year and a bit later, I finally got around to having another go.

But again I left too late in the day, and this time it was summer. Setting off at 1.30pm was a huge tactical error, and it was compounded soon after I left Puente Ñilhue when one of my hiking poles snapped. So my hike was extremely tiring in the heat, and more difficult than it should have been with only one pole.

But after three hours I was at Alto del Naranjo. No snow on the ground this time, and the summer days were long so I still had plenty of time to get to the top. However, I didn’t have plenty of water. I’d refilled at the last opportunity, and I’d been carrying nearly 5 litres, but it was hot going and I was using up my supplies quickly. I decided to head a bit further up than Alto del Naranjo but not to go to the summit until morning when it would be cooler.


Puerto Varas

Puerto Varas

I watched the sun set from down by the lake, then headed to the bus station for a night bus back to Santiago.


Osorno view

Osorno view

Osorno is famous for looking a bit like Mount Fuji. Its perfect cone looked pretty good across Lago LLanquihue.


Clear skies

Clear skies

Volcán Calbuco had erupted in May. I’d gone to see it, but I’d been out of luck and the weather was bad for two days. I’d gone back to Santiago without seeing anything. Now I was back in Puerto Varas, and it was really upsetting to see how close the volcano was to the town. If I’d had clear skies, I’d have seen epic, epic views of the ash column surging up into the upper atmosphere.


Lago Todos los Santos

Lago Todos los Santos

Another short boat journey took us across Lago Frías. After that, we crossed back into Chile, and got a boat across Lago Todos los Santos. A cloudy day was turning into a sunny one as we headed towards Volcán Osorno.


Mountain protest

Mountain protest

One evening I was at the lake and I’d just set a series of photos going, when I saw a bright light near the summit of the volcano. I thought for a moment that it was lava, but could soon see that it was skiers descending. The mountain was officially closed so I didn’t know who it could be – whether they’d sneaked up there or were volcanologists who’d been to look at the crater, or what. I found out later that it was mountain guides, protesting about the closure of the mountain. They were arguing that it was safe to visit the crater now and that their livelihoods were being ruined. The protest was successful – a few days later, access to the mountain was permitted.


Volcano star trails

Volcano star trails

I spent a few days in Pucón, watching the volcano at night from down by the lake.


Pucón

Pucón

After four years working in Chile, my contract had finished and my work visa was expiring. I had to leave the country to return as a tourist if I wanted to stay longer. I did want to stay longer – the absolute last thing I wanted to do was go back to Europe just at the beginning of winter. So I went on a trip to Argentina. I headed first of all to Pucón, to see Villarrica erupting. It had had a big eruption in March that was over before I even had a chance to jump on a bus and head down, but it was still more active than usual.


Mirador El Litre

Mirador El Litre

Summer has been very late coming to Santiago in 2015, El Niño giving us a huge amount more grey cloudy weather than normal. But today was beautiful, so I went to Cerro Carbón in the evening. I thought I might go all the way to the top and see the sunset from there, but I left a bit late, and only had time to get to Mirador El Litre before it was dark. A few hill runners came down after nightfall, and I could see a light on top of Cerro Manquehue. It looked like someone was camping up there. Meanwhile, the city lights came on, and Santiago looked awesome.


Urban star trails

Urban star trails

I went up onto the roof of the ESO building on a clear evening, and tried a star trail photo. I’d never done one from the city before but I thought it should be possible to do one, with the exposure set so that the buildings were not overexposed but at least some stars showed up. With a 4s exposure at ISO 100, this just about worked. So I took 500 of those and stacked them together, and got some decent trails. There was also someone coming down the trail from Alto del Naranjo to San Carlos de Apoquindo.


Cajón del Maipo moon

Cajón del Maipo moon

The moon rose a bit after midnight. I took a video when it did, and did some post processing to extract the best images from the video sequence and combine those to make this final image.


Milky Way over Roan Jase

Milky Way over Roan Jase

I went to Roan Jase for a night to do some astrophotography with Julien and Jorge. Conditions were really good, though pretty savagely cold in late autumn, 1000m above sea level.

Trying to get an equatorial mount aligned is tricky. It would be easy enough in the northern hemisphere, where there’s a nice bright star near the celestial pole to target, but in the south there’s no bright pole star and we struggled to get the telescope well aligned. Shining the laser through the guide scope to see where we were pointing was our best technique.


Volcano chasing fail

Volcano chasing fail

Volcán Calbuco erupted in April 2015. Spectacular photos began to appear of towering ash columns lit up by lightning and the glow of molten rock. I decided I had to go and see it.

May in the south of Chile is not a time of reliable good weather. But I checked the forecast and the portents were pretty good. A bit of rain followed by sunshine and blue skies was predicted for the two days I had available, so I headed to the Alameda and got a night bus to Puerto Varas.

The morning I arrived was grey and overcast. I walked down to Lago Llanquihue and hung around with spots of drizzle falling. I was just 20 miles from the peak of the volcano, which was, so I supposed, roaring away and pumping ash up into the atmosphere. But in the placid early morning it was impossible to imagine.

While I waited, the sky began to clear a tiny bit. I could see blue sky overhead, just about, through the thick mist. A passer by asked me if I’d come to see the volcano. I said yes, slightly self consciously, thinking that people who live so close to an active volcano might not appreciate gawpers at a time like this. But he didn’t seem to mind my intrusion, and told me there had been amazing views but that all this cloud might actually be caused by the ash from the volcano.

That day, the skies stayed grey. The forecast was for better weather the following day, but the forecast was a lie. I walked out of town, towards the volcanic exclusion zone which was being enforced just a few kilometers away, but saw not even the slightest hint that a major eruption was going on so close by.

I went back to Puerto Varas, and sat in a cafe whiling away the time and occasionally checking to see if the weather was improving. While I was there, idly checking my change after my 17th espresso of the day, I discovered that I’d got one of the famous “CHIIE” 50 peso coins, minted with a misprint in 2008. I’d been looking for one ever since I moved to Chile so I felt slightly happy about that.

But the weather never improved. I had not seen any evidence that there was even a volcano just outside town, let alone that it was erupting. I got a night bus back to Santiago.


New year on Cerro Carbón

New year on Cerro Carbón

I’d started 2014 with a trip up Cerro Carbón, and I did the same for 2015. I wouldn’t have minded climbing Manquehue instead or as well, but it was a hot summer’s day and these hills aren’t so much fun when it’s incredibly dry and hot. So I left the house early and was on the trail before sunrise. It was a little bit cloudy first thing, which made for a cooler start to the hike, and also created epic sunbeams over the Sierra de Ramón when the sun came up.

It was not as quiet as last year – there was someone camped at Mirador El Litre. But I still had the top to myself when I got there.


Geostationary satellites

Geostationary satellites

I’d noticed the geostationary satellites a couple of times before on my photographs from Paranal. With this photograph I set out to capture as many as I could and then to identify them. I got a list of all of them, and then worked out the spatial scale of my photo and which direction I was pointing, so that I could work out which point of light was which satellite.


Salto de Apoquindo

Salto de Apoquindo

Coffee at Paranal

Coffee at Paranal

Coffee helps me appreciate the wonders of the universe, and the wonders of the universe help me appreciate my coffee.


Geostationary satellites

Geostationary satellites

A half hour exposure reveals a string of stationary lights over Paranal, strung out roughly along the celestial equator. They are all geostationary satellites, orbiting at an altitude of 36,000 km where it takes exactly 24 hours to orbit the Earth.


NGTS

NGTS

The Next Generation Transit Survey is being commissioned at Paranal. It will consists of 12 small telescopes, all operating remotely to search for planets around other stars. I went over there to take some photos as they were preparing for their official first light.


Mirador El Litre

Mirador El Litre

It was a nice evening with much less smog that when I’d climbed Cerro Carbón a few days ago. I decided to head up the trail again, but just to Mirador El Litre, half way up the mountain, for some evening views of the city. I cycled from my house to La Piramide and realised when I got there that I’d left my bike lock at home. So I dragged the bike up the hill a little way, vaguely hid it in some undergrowth, and hoped there were no bike thieves around.

The evening views from the mirador were pretty awesome and I stayed until it was dark. Coming down the hill was scarier than I’d anticipated – my torch suddenly lit up two red eyes on the trail ahead of me, and I approached cautiously. Then, suddenly, as I got closer, there was an loud flap and the bird I’d woken up took off, almost flying into my face.

Back at the bottom, I found my bike still where I’d left it, and cycled home.


Cerro Carbón

Cerro Carbón

I climbed Cerro Carbón again with a group of friends. It was a cool winter’s day and the air quality was particularly horrible. At street level it was just a misty gloomy day, but from the top of Carbón we could see that there was a disgusting layer of brown all over Santiago. The top of the layer was just below the top of Cerro Carbón, and we stayed on our island in the muck for quite a while, not wanting to go back down into the filthy air below.


Alto del Naranjo

Alto del Naranjo

With three friends, I set out for a weekend climb. Our plan was to climb Provincia, and stay in the hut at the top. But we left a bit later than planned, and it took us a long time to get to the start of the climb. We waited ages for a bus to Plaza San Enrique, then decided to get a taxi instead, and then got another taxi from there to Puente Ñilhue.

It was the middle of winter but it was a hot day and the early part of the hike was tiring, climbing very steeply. After three hours we reached Alto del Naranjo, and it was already after 4pm. There was snow on the ground here and nice views of the cordillera. El Plomo was about as thickly covered in snow as it had been after the storm in February.

With about three hours still to go to reach the summit, we’d be arriving in the dark if we carried on. We had a brief argument with some wanting to continue and others wanting to go down, and eventually we went for the descent. We were near a fork in the path with one way continuing to the summit and the other descending to San Carlos de Apoquindo, and we took the path to San Carlos. We got to the bottom in darkness.

It was the world cup semi-final. I’d been to Brazil and seen two games live, and watched almost every other game on TV. But tonight, I’d missed Germany v. Brazil, and once we were on a bus back into town, I looked up the result. I thought there was some crazy error on the BBC when I read 7-1 for the score. Turned out that the one significant game of the cup that I’d missed was just about the most extraordinary game in world cup history.


Galactic Centre

Galactic Centre

The finest sight of the southern skies. Us poor natives of the northern hemisphere are seriously deprived, restricted to seeing some crappy outer spiral arm of the galaxy while the lucky folk of the south get to look towards the centre.


Airglow

Airglow

It’s very dark at Paranal but there’s still background light that we can’t do anything about: the atmosphere itself glows at night. It can be surprisingly bright. Often it’s green, when oxygen atoms are glowing. It can be red, too, when nitrogen is responsible. And it can be orange, when sodium atoms are being excited. Tonight, it was extremely orange, looking a lot like streetlights on clouds, except there were no clouds, and there are definitely no streetlights near here. It got really strong while I was taking a time lapse and you can see huge waves in the upper atmosphere rippling.

Video


Galaxies to the south

Galaxies to the south

The Milky Way is at the right, and the Milky Way’s two satellite galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds, are in the middle of this photograph. There was a lot of airglow to the south west, and just to the right of the Large Magellanic Cloud you can see the distant glow from the town of Taltal.


Airglow over the ATs

Airglow over the ATs

Strong red airglow over the Auxiliary Telescopes. The Southern Cross is setting at the right.


Milky Way panorama

Milky Way panorama

The centre of the Milky Way is right overhead during the winter months here.


Milky Way over Paranal

Milky Way over Paranal

The beautiful southern Milky Way, shining brightly over the four telescopes of the VLT, and the VST in the distance.


Milky Way and the Zodiacal light

Milky Way and the Zodiacal light

The galaxy and dust in the solar system both visible over Paranal.


Strong airglow at dusk

Strong airglow at dusk

The Milky Way crosses the sky over two of the Auxiliary Telescopes. The sky looked pretty dark to the naked eye but in the long exposure it turned out to be full of strong red airglow. Around sunset, there are usually lots of satellites visible crossing the sky, and a few can be seen in this photo.


A bright meteor over Paranal

A bright meteor over Paranal

During this 20s exposure, a bright meteor flashed by, burning up in the sky over Paranal.


Milky Way rising behind UT4

Milky Way rising behind UT4

In the late evening twilight just before the start of proper darkness, the centre of the galaxy rises behind UT4.


Turn the lights out!

Turn the lights out!

The centre of the galaxy passes right over Paranal. We take great care to avoid stray light that could affect our observations, but this photo contains damning evidence – someone left the lights on in the VLTI control room.


Light pollution at Paranal

Light pollution at Paranal

Paranal is very dark, but there are some sources of light pollution we can’t do anything about. 80 miles north is the city of Antofagasta, which showed up more clearly than usual in this photo because of low cloud reflecting the street lights. And a similar distance up is the upper atmosphere, which glows faintly at night. Further afield, dust particles in the solar system reflect sunlight and cause the faint white band that stretches up from the horizon. The handle of the Plough is visible just above Antofagasta – a far northern constellation that we can just about see from down here.


Milky Way over the VLTI control room

Milky Way over the VLTI control room

The centre of the Milky Way is rising next to UT4 in this photo, with Alpha and Beta Centauri and the Southern Cross high over the VLTI control room, inside which an insanely complicated system of mirrors and lenses can combine the light from four telescopes to study objects in incredible detail.


Trails over the summit

Trails over the summit

A view from out the back of the residencia towards the summit of Paranal and the telescopes.


Two halves of the sky

Two halves of the sky

A view from out the back of the residencia, where you can see the southern stars trailing to the right, and the northern stars trailing to the left.


Celestial equator over the residencia

Celestial equator over the residencia

A view over the residence at Paranal, looking towards the celestial equator. I stacked 763 individual photos to make this one, each of the individual ones being a 20s exposure at ISO 800, using a 24mm lens at f/2.8.


Bright airglow at La Silla

Bright airglow at La Silla

The night after our observations, we spent one more night at La Silla before our transport back to La Serena. We were out taking photographs when the airglow became very strong, just about visible to the naked eye and very bright on a long exposure photograph. An observer from the Swiss Telescope came out to check out the skies as well.