Georgeous!!! Beautiful!!!

Jun 2011
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GEORGEOUS!!! BEAUTIFUL!!!


This above photo is the first composite photo of the Antennae Galaxies taken by the newly functioning ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array), taken in conjunction with photos from the Hubble Space Telescope.

There is a good report about this FOX news. I won't quote any of it, just go read it and have fun.

The Atacama desert in Chile is not the hottest desert in the world, but rather, the dryest. It also has one salt lake, or better put, sinkhole, with the largest salt content in the entire world.

I was in Chile in December 2009 on an opera tour of a modern work, which was performed in the capital of Santiago. After the tour, some colleagues and I took a plane to Calama airport and from there we took a bus to get to the small city of San Pedro, which is right at the edge of the Atacama desert. We all swam in that sinkhole, where it that boasts a a salt concentration so high that "you can do yoga on the surface."

Here are two photos of me and my colleagues at the Atacama Salt Lake (Sinkhole):



That's me in the black shirt.

And here we are, floating in the lake. It was a fantastic day, at about 4,000 meters above sea level:




Cool, eh?

Actually, the real point of this story is that on the way from Calama airport to San Pedro, it was approaching midnight. There is one single road leading from Calama to San Pedro, that's it. And no street lights. For about 70 miles. About half way through the trip the driver asked us if we wanted to stop and look at the stars, and so we did.

And when we stepped out of the bus, a wonder hit my eyes. Never in my entire life have I seen so many stars, so perfectly clear to see. Literally, billions of stars, and they looked bigger than I have ever seen them. Constellations I had never seen before, for in the southern Hemisphere, there are other constellations. I had the feeling they were so close to me, all I had to do was to reach up with my arm and pull a star down to earth. It was amazing. There we all stood in absolute silence and awe and wonder, with our heads cocked up toward the sky, for a good 10 minutes, and not one of us noticed that the temperature had fallen from 20 celsius at the airport to just above freezing where we were on the highway. And not one vehicle came by as we watched the stars. Wow. Just wow.

If anyone here gets a chance to vacation in Chile, take time to go visit the Atacama desert. There are also thermal baths way up at about 5,000 meters above sea level. The desert itself is enormous.

So, I can understand why the array has been built there, near the Atacama: no light pollution, the view is truly unbelievable.

Today marks yet another day marching forward in the quest for knowledge. GEIL!!! (German: COOL!!!)

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BTW, from the Atacama some salt is mined, but the real element that is mined is LITHIUM.
Chile produces 50% of the world's lithium, the element powers the chilean economy.
 
Jun 2011
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Some more photos from CHILE



Yours truly standing next to the great Atacama Salt Lake.




In the desert itself. 42 degrees celsius.




With my colleagues in the desert.




Typical Atacama dune.
 
Jun 2011
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More photos from CHILE



Sunset in the Atacama desert.




A settlement we visited on the way back down from the Thermal baths. The baths we visited at 6am, it was -12 degrees celsius. By the time we got down to the settlement, it was 36 celcius, a 48 celsius degree swing...




Leaving San Pedro




Flying back to Santiago over the Atacama desert.

The big earthquake that hit Santiago came about two weeks after we got back to Germany.
 

Djinn

Council Hall
Dec 2007
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Pennsylvania, USA
In 2001, I vacationed in St. Croix with my family. We happened upon the St. Croix Radio Telescope (part of the VLBA (Very Long Baseline Array)) while walking. It's a system of ten radio-telescope antennas, placed all over our eighth of the planet, each with a dish 82 feet in diameter and weighing 240 tons. All ten telescopes are linked, so they act in concert as a single titanic radio telescope.

Turns out that they don't normally offer tours; the telescope is in use every day of the year - minus one. One day per year is dedicated for calibrations, and not only did we luck out and visit on that day, but the calibration program had completed much earlier than expected, so they allowed us inside.

It was DAMN impressive. And cool - in the literal sense. It was hot as hell outside, but some of the equipment has to be supercooled, so the inside of the telescope was like a meat locker. Awesome stuff.