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La Silla

Saturday, December 19th 2009

We got a bus to La Serena, spent a night there and then headed up to the observatory at La Silla. This was the first major observatory built in the southern hemisphere, but ESO's main observatory these days is at Paranal, a few hundred miles further north. The atmosphere at La Silla is one of faded glory. Most of the telescope domes are now unused.

But there are still world class telescopes in operation, and we had five nights on the largest of them, the 3.6m New Technology Telescope. Because of the transport schedule, we had to arrive at the observatory three nights before our run started, so we had plenty of time to appreciate the incredible scenery up here on the southern fringes of the Atacama desert. The food was awesome, we made extensive use of the ice cream machine, we watched condors hover over the desert, and I discovered the best coffee machine in the world.

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