Twilight in the Desert

Coyo/Time Travel Atacama, Chile. [February 2016]

By good fortune, the clouds that have deflated many an astronomical enthusiast in San Pedro in the past few days have mostly dissipated, allowing the galaxy to resurface to the naked eye in its full glory. Rodrigo at Time Travel Atacama, a wise and genuinely nice astrologist, takes us on a journey through the stars in his observatory in the small commune of Coyo, away from what little light pollution plagues San Pedro after 11PM.

Though only a Spanish tour is offered this night, Rodrigo (who is fluent in English) speaks very slowly and clearly for me to follow along, and takes time to explain further details to me in English during breaks. He let me set up my Nikon on my tripod and even let me take several close-ups via his telescope setup. The most brilliantly captured: Omega Centauri, with its fairy dust-like glitters, and Orion’s nebula clouds, as if the Big Bang is rebirthing itself in miniature.

I have only seen a sky so clear once before in my life: at Zion Lodge deep in the Utah canyons last August. I have only seen a moonrise once before in my life: at the Grotta Lighthouse on the edge of Reykjavik a little over a year ago. But never before have I seen an entire skyful of stars twinkle, like in the children’s song written long ago. It fills me with privilege to behold such a sight in an age obsessed with selfies and Kimye, and with disquiet to know that these chances are likely going to decrease in probability going forward into a Brave New World of industry and GDP growth.

Until then, may the emissions of worlds beyond the milky way continue to outshine the emissions of trailers along the highway.

Omega Centauri Star Photography Atacama Desert Chile galaxy dongnanxibei DNXB Nikon D90 telescope telescopic
Omega Centauri (NGC 5139) captured through telescope/Nikon combo
Orion nebulaStar Photography Atacama Desert Chile galaxy dongnanxibei DNXB Nikon D90 telescope telescopic
Chaotic beauty of the Orion nebula
Starry night stargazing Atacama time travel telescope D90 nikon DNXB dongnanxibei Chile night photography
Unblemished night skies as viewed from Rodrigo’s Time Travel Atacama in Coyo

“She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.” -Neil Gaiman, Stardust

“Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.” -Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

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