Las luces del desierto / The lights of the desert

por Phil/By Phil

Gracias a nuestros dos Galileomobiles 4×4, con pinta de safaris, llegamos a San Pedro de Atacama por el Valle de la Muerte, atravesando cerros esculpidos por la erosión del agua.

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Thanks to our two 4×4 Galileomobiles with a “safari-look”, we arrived to San Pedro de Atacama through the “Valle de la muerte” (valley of the death), surrounded by reddish rocks sculptured by water erosion.

Paisaje cerca e San Pedro de Atacama / Landscape near San Pedro de Atacama

Cerca e San Pedro de Atacama / Near San Pedro de Atacama

En el atardecer nos esperaba el Liceo Likan Antai, una escuela con 150 alumnos, donde nos recibió cálidamente la maestra María Solange, nuestro contacto local.

Presenciaron nuestra charla inaugural adolescentes del internado en medio de un ambiente muy animado: Phil lanzando preguntas y Pilar lanzando el “Earth Ball” (globo terrestre inflable) el cual, daba vueltas entre los jóvenes para que respondieran. Al terminar la charla, un espectáculo grandioso se presentó ante nuestros ojos: un cielo inmaculado con miles de estrellas iluminando el desierto.

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Our team had its evening activity in the Liceo Likan Antai, a school of 150 pupils where we were warmly welcomed by the teacher Maria Solange, our local contact.

We gave our “opening talk” in front of a public of teenagers, which resulted in a very animated atmosphere: Phil was throwing out questions and Pilar was throwing the “Earth Ball” (an inflatable terrestrial globe), which was passing from one pupil to the next while they were answering. When we came out of the room at the end of the talk, we were in awe as the light of the school went off. An immaculate sky with thousands of stars illuminating the desert.

Estudiates del Liceo Likan Antai / Students in Liceo Likan Antai

Estudiantes del Liceo Likan Antai / Students in Liceo Likan Antai

Al día siguiente, madrugamos para subir al sitio donde se desarrolla el proyecto ALMA (una red gigante de radio telescopios). Nuestras cabezas sintieron este viaje como una montaña rusa, pasamos de 2400 a más de 5000 metros de altura. Arriba, el sitio del ALMA lucia como otro planeta. Bajo el cresciente de la luna en el cielo azul, rodeados por montes rojizos, se encuentra una antena radio parabólica de 14 metros!.

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The next day we went up to the site of the future project ALMA (a giant array of radiotelescopes). Our heads felt the trip as a roller coaster: from 2400 to more than 5000 m of altitude. Up there, the site of ALMA looked like another planet. Below the crescent of the moon in a deep blue sky, surrounded by reddish mountains, a parabolica radio antenna of 14 m was standing!

Antena del proyecto ALMA / ALMA porject antenna

Antena del proyecto ALMA / ALMA porject antenna

En la noche, a pesar del cansancio del día, Pilar, Victor, Steffen y Phil tenían cita con Alain Mery, un astrónomo francés que organiza observaciones del cielo para turistas, y a la vez, es el dueño de un parque de unos 20 telescopios!. Apasionado por su trabajo, Alain nos contó su arte de comunicar la astronomía hasta las 2 de la madrugada, alrededor de una vela y bajo el amparo de las estrellas.

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In the night, despite the headaches, Pilar, Victor, Steffen and Phil went to meet Alain Mery, a French astronomer who organizes tours of the sky, and is also the owner of a park with more than 20 telescopes! Passionated by his job, Alain told us the art of communicating astronomy until 2AM in the night, at the light of a candle, below the shining stars.

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