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Nick and Bec's Big Trip Starting on the 29th of June 2008 Bec and I will be starting a year long adventure, spending 6 months in Africa and another 6 months in South America. It should be lots of fun.

I have seen the rings of Saturn and I have walked upon the Moon

BOLIVIA | Friday, 3 April 2009 | Views [786] | Comments [2]

We have moved slightly to Sucre and have been to see dinosaur footprints over 68 million years old.  More about that another day.  Here´s a diary entry from the 24th March, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

My evangelical title, but worth it.  It all starts with the star tour last night run by an amusing and very passionate Chile-French pair of astronomers.

We were picked up about 9:30pm and driven out of town to the astronomers house and enormous back yard, plus the sky, just full of stars.  We huddled around as they explained to us the visible and non-visible constellations in the sky.

Plus how to find north, how many stars are visible on a clear night, roughly 3,000 per side of the planet.  Why planets are called planets, they orbit in a planar motion.  Why France is the centre of the universe, Sirius (8.6 light years away) the brightest star in the night sky, not forgetting the Sun is a star too.  Canopus the second brightest night star, Orion, the Southern Cross, the Fly, the Centaur, including the Pointers and Ursa Major just on the horizon.

Plus the position and meaning of the small and large Magellanic Coulds, not part of the Milkyway and actually other distant galaxies.  Nebular and globular clusters and so on and so on.  Right up my alley so to speak.  Their enthusiasm was infectious.

We also looked through numerous telescopes pointed at different parts of the night sky.  After a warm up break we chatted about why the world is not flat and the make up of the universe, including our galaxy and the furthest known galaxies observed using Hubble Space Telescope at a massive distance of 13 billion light years away.  Huge beyond description.

The highlight was yet to come.  Seeing Saturn and it rings including one of its many moons, Titan.  Through the telescope it was incredible.

Back to earth, sort of.  Today we trekked through Death Valley and the The Valley of the Moon.  The landscape was barren, desolate, rock strewn and, well, Moon like.  We wound our way through the moonscape with our girl guide and two chain smoking Germans.  The up hills very tough and we could feel the altitude hurting our lungs and sapping our energy.

We were in the Salt Mountain Range.  Very simply put, part of the sea bed long ago.  Then due to tectonic plate movements was thrust skyward.  The sea bed bent and buckled forming mountain and canyon.  Rains channeled into rivers, which cut gorges through the mud-rock substance.  The water has long since gone as we found out by following an anicent streamway over dry water falls and through ox-bow caves cut by the river eons ago.  The salt from the anicent sea still exists though and can be seen everywhere imitating a fine layer of snow, but of course it is not snow.  We did try some crystalised rock salt, licking a finger and touching the glass looking substance buried in the walls.

During our whole day we were under the watchful gaze of many volcanos in the region of six thousand metres straddling the present Bolivia-Chile border.  The snow capped monsters were an impressive back drop to the sunset at the end of the day.  Being at 23 degress of latitude the sun sets fast, then the colours of the night start to creep up, reds to purples to greys and finally to the black of the night once more.

Comments

1

No sorry yiu have that wrong Trewidland is the centre of the universe for night skies! When you arrive in the UK you can give me a guided tour of my night sky. Shall we call you 'Patrick' from now on

  Pat Apr 10, 2009 6:44 PM

2

The Aussie outback for stargazing, hard to beat, no lights for miles & miles around

  maureen Apr 15, 2009 8:31 AM

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