Friday, February 24, 2006

Observing in Chile

I survived my trip to the southern hemisphere, where it is currently the dog days of late summer. The weather is warm, the sun is shinng by day, and the night sky is gorgeous. This sure beats the last time I was here, when it was snowy and an icy wind was howling.

So, why do I travel all the way to South America to use the telescope, when there are several in Arizona? The main reason is that we can see different stars down here than back in the United States. From Chile I can see the Southern Cross and the Large and Small Magellenic Clouds, two of the closest galaxies to our own. And, many of the very distant galaxies I am looking at could not be observed from Arizona. But we have things in our sky that are not easily seen from Chile. The North Star and the Big Dipper are never visible, and many famous galaxies like the Whirlpool Galaxy are also not visible.

On Sunday I leave Chile for Hawaii, where I get to spend two nights using the world's largest telescope, the Keck Telescope. I'll be sure to let you know if I make any fascinating discoveries!

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