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SIDEWALK ASTRONOMY IN CHILE

By Francisco Mardones
Published 2004-09-09 21:08:13

With respect to sidewalk astronomy in Chile, I founded our group here in Coyhaique six years ago and we have held many public observations and events. The observational conditions here are very severe due to the fact that the best time to observe is when the snow and clouds have disappeared - "the frozen sky" as we say. Our main recommendation is of course, "Don't touch the eyepiece." I speak from experience, when I first saw the Patagonia sky, I touched the eyepiece. Two things occurred, the first was a terrible pain in my left eye and the next was that the eyepiece and my eyelid were one and the same!

Our first major goal was the 1998 Leonids. Oh, that was a great spectacle, a wonderful experience. Hundreds of golden fireworks in a moonless night, God was on our side - this night was without wind, the temperature was warm - a lot of emotions we had when we saw these lights in the southern sky at 3 am. We didn't take any pictures, we were as statues, immovable, with our fixed, overflowing eyes on that sky. That Leonids haven't repeated that magnificent show since, but there is the opportunity this year.

When the people see for the first time the Moon, they can't believe what they see on the Moon's surface, but the biggest surprise for them is Saturn and its rings. We can see in their faces a light of gratitude.

Well, I run with my emotions!.