Monday, December 04, 2023

A Magical Night in Chile's Valley of The Moon

A Magical Night in Chile's Valley of The Moon

This image feels "alien" to look at. The upper two thirds constitute the night sky, a dark canvas painted with thousands of stars, the hazy white band of the Milky Way stretching off to the upper left, and wispy green and red features clinging near the horizon. The bottom third of the image curves like a bowl as the desert floor stretches up in front of the lens. Pointed features poke out of the dusty red ground that is speckled with white flecks of salt.

There is magic in this picture. Can you feel it? The strange geological formations protruding out of the desert floor are twisted and gnarled like old wizards’ hats, while the sky above is filled with thousands of stars and a myriad of mesmerizing colors. This is Valle de la Luna—meaning “Valley of the Moon”—in the Chilean Atacama Desert, close to where the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is located. 

It is easy to see where the valley gets its name from; the moon-like formations on the dried-up salt beds have been eroded by aeons of exposure to the elements and feel far more out of this world than of it. Its altitude and dry air, as well as its distance from civilization, make it a great place for stargazing. This is particularly important for ALMA, as water vapor in the atmosphere can absorb the invisible light collected by this radio telescope.

As the night unfolds, the sky comes alive with the glowing cascade of the Milky Way, illuminated by gas and stars. The vibrant red color dancing across the Milky Way comes from hydrogen atoms distributed throughout our galaxy.

Credit: P. Horálek/European Southern Observatory (ESO)

Release Date: Nov. 27, 2023

#ESO #Space #Astronomy #Earth #Stars #MilkyWayGalaxy #Astrophotography #PetrHorálek #Astrophotographer #ValledelaLuna #AtacamaDesert #Chile #SouthAmerica #SolarSystem #STEM #Education

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