31/10/15

THE PLACE

Long. 70º41'39" W / Lat. 30º08'35" S /
Altitude 1478m (4850ft)



The Observatorio del Pangue stands atop a moderate hill in a mountainous landscape close to the Elqui Valley, located some 480 km (300 mi.) north to the capital city Santiago de Chile. The little town Vicuña is some 17 km (11 mi.) north to the observatory, while the regional cape town, La Serena, is some 80 km (43 mi.) westward.


The local view indeed is stunning, where the only human buildings visible in the far are the scientific observatories of SOAR, Gemini, and Tololo, all located within 11 km (7 mi.) to us. Yet the most noticeable feature of the region is the quality of the sky, resulting from a rare association of an adjusted geology, a favourable local climate, and a total absence of light pollution. Hence, these mountains have been selected among 5 candidate places in the world for installing the 500-million dollar budget facility, the next LSST, also 11 km (7 mi.) away from us.

Two of our neighbours : the SOAR, and the Gemini South observatory (left to right)

At the Observatorio del Pangue you will indeed experience the unforgettable feeling of sharing the sky with the giants...



A stunning starry sky awaits you every night



The original summit has been flattened, prior to building the observatory... (click to enlarge)



360º panoramic view from the Observatorio del Pangue: the video starts due South West, facing the SOAR and Gemini observatories. The Tololo observatory, due West, comes into view a few seconds later.



The local zone, viewed from space (click to enlarge) - credit: NASA



Interactive map from GoogleMaps: you can easily find us by playing with the zoom digits and orientation arrows.

See also the Observatorio del Pangue (OdP) on the GoogleMaps page

THE TELESCOPES

Our telescopes are equipped with premium eyepieces and accessories, carefully selected, allowing an optimal, effortless sight to any target.

T400: Computarized Schmidt Cassegrain reflector MEADE LX200ACF,
aperture 16" (40cm), focal ratio f/10.




Our scope poses proudly in front of the Cerro Tololo Observatory (that "little" dome silhouetted in the far horizon...)

T600: Dobson type reflector OBSESSION, aperture 25" (63cm), focal ratio f/5.


For long it was the largest public telescope in Chile, until we got the following one...



T700: Newton type reflector REGINATO, aperture 28" (71cm), focal ratio f/3.1


Specifically intended for astrophotography, this telescope is in process of installation, and scheduled for initiate operations by June, 2016.

Still, this is currently the largest public telescope in Chile...


Telescope owned by italian astronomer Massimo Lucchi


T500: Astrograph PLANEWAVE, aperture 20" (50cm), focal ratio f/6.8


Although designed for visual observing too, this telescope is intended mainly for the Astrophotography programme, together with the Reginato above mentionned. It is also currently in process of installation, and scheduled for initiate operations by June, 2016.


Telescope owned by italian astronomer Massimo Lucchi


T300: Dobson type reflector ORION SkyQuest, aperture 12" (30cm), focal ratio f/4.9


Available for the amateur astronomers, who'll certainly enjoy the opportunity to push this otherwise excellent scope beyond its expected limits...



Below, the T400, viewing Jupiter, the Moon, and almost aligned the Cerro Tololo Observatory (that tiny black dome silhouetted in the horizon...)




Below, the T630, next to its rolling roof, ready for one more of the deep sky observing sessions.




THE PROGRAMMES



photo: Cristian Valenzuela / Observatorio del Pangue

We propose a series of services, ranging from the traditional 2-hours guided tour, to the loan of the full observatory for complete nights. Here we display the most popular services: for our additional proposals, or for any alternative service you could wish, don't hesitate to ask us.

TOUR ASTRO
Suitable for the general public, the Tour Astro allows our guests to discover the wonders of the Universe in optimal conditions. Not only you will observe through state-of-the-art telescopes, but you will deeply understand what you see, thanks to the clever, accurate, and always surprising explainations given by our personnel. Moreover, any query is welcome, and just every question will be answered, either about the latest astronomy news, or about leading astrophysics topics. Hence, without any previous knowledge in astronomy, you'll be allowed to truly enjoy the endless enchantment of the Universe to which we do belong.


The Tour Astro performs with a minimum of 5 people, and a strict maximum of 10 in order to preserve the personalized attention. The group is assisted by 2 astronomers. We are open all year, except the nights with excessive moonlight (see "Prices-Booking" page).

We admit children over 16 years old only.

The available languages are spanish, english, and french.

Unforgettable experiences are made of this: limited groups, friendly hosted by an astronomer, under a truly outstanding sky...

Photo: Miguel Carvajal

Contents:
1.
Departure from the agency in Vicuña, transfert to the Observatory aboard our minivan (about 30 minutes);
2. Welcome to the guests, sight of the stunning sunset landscape, with the great scientific observatories visible in the far (1st Tour only);
3. Unaided eye sight of the sky: constellations, Milky Way, Magellanic Clouds, etc...
4. Observing session through the T400 telescope (computarized, 16 inches of aperture). The programme includes all the wonders of the night, such as star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, not forgetting the Moon and planets as available, as well as any specific object you could wish to look at.
5. Hot drinks service in lounge, and return to Vicuña.

The programme lasts 2 hours on site (3 hours in total with the transferts from/to Vicuña), and may include some short audiovisual presentations.

Timetable:
The departing time obviously depends on the seasons: in winter (june-july) the first Tour starts at 18H00 (6:00 pm) local time, while in summer (december-january) it starts at 21H00 (9:00 pm) local time, with the corresponding extrapolated times for the rest of the year. The second Tour starts exactly 2 hours later than the first one. Upon demand, a third Tour can be performed, also starting 2 hours later than the previous one.

Current departure from Vicuña: 20H00 (8:00 pm)

TOUR EXTREME
Same as the Tour Astro in its contents and timetable, but with the T600 telescope (25 inches of aperture).


Due to its proper characteristics, this programme is mainly intended for experienced observers like amateur astronomers: apart for being manually operated, the telescope is really big, so the eyepiece may locate 3 meters above ground level, indeed not so practical for general public...

The "effort" is worth anyway, since you will discover the stunning deep sky objects such as exotic nebulae or distant galaxy clusters, or even observe the familiar objects but under conditions you never expected to meet.

The Tour Extreme lasts 3 hours on site (4 hours in total including transfert from/to Vicuña).

photo: Miguel Carvajal


NIGHT EXTREME
Strictly intended for amateur astronomers, either individuals or groups (clubs and associations), either for visual observations or for performing some astrophotogtaphy.

The observers dispose of the complete facility: two main telescopes (participants are allowed to use the T400 computarized telescope too), visual observing and astrophotography accessories, charts, computers, etc... You can follow our observing lists, or perform your own observing programme. In every case, you'll benefit of a permanent technical assistance, and a free access to the cafeteria.

The programme Extreme Night is not time-limited, except maybe by the dawn...

The starting time also is established at the convenience of the group.

Imagine yourself in such a place...



In case of booking several consecutive nights, a saving tariff is aplicable. Members of astronomy clubs and associations may also benefit of an additional discount.


ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY SESSION
This programme is exclusively intended for astrophotographers who want to benefit of both optimum sky conditions and convenient location on Earth: from 30° latitude south, the wonders of the Southern Sky are almost always available high above the horizon.

Unlike the previous ones, this is not a guided tour: the customers will manage themselves with the equipments we provide, that is the telescope and the usual accessories (camera adapters, filters,...) They will be alone at the dome, although we remain on site for any help or assistance that may be needed.

This programme will be operative by late June 2016. Two telescopes are included in this programme, both specifically designed for astrophotography: a newton Reginato of 28 inches (71cm) aperture, focal ratio f/3, and an astrograph PlaneWave of 20 inches (50cm) aperture, focal ratio f/6,8. They are currently installed, in process of calibrations: soon we'll indicate further details such as prices and conditions of use.

Preliminary view of the two domes just installed, with the tiny silhouettes of the SOAR and Gemini South observatories visible in the far:

PRICES - BOOKING - HOW TO FIND US

Prices below are given in local currency ("Chilean Peso"), applicable currently, and subject to further variations


TOUR ASTRO: Cl$ 22.500 per person
The transfert to the observatory is included in the price.

It is recommended to book in advance. The reservations must be paid not later than 13H00 (1:00 p.m.) in the day of the Tour, otherwise they are annuled.

We accept US dollars and euros with a light surcharge of 2,5%.

In case of annulation of the Tour for adverse weather conditions, we'll refund 100% of the amount paid.

TOUR ASTRO PRIVATE: Cl$ 236.000 per group
The transfert to the observatory is included in the price.

This programme is intended for groups managed by national tour operators, or travelling together, who like the benefits of an exclusive service.

Similar to the Tour Astro, except for the limiting number of participants, extended to 14 people.

TOUR EXTREME: Cl$ 32.000 per person
The transfert to the observatory is included in the price.

The Tour Extreme requires a minimum of 5 persons, while the maximum remains of 10 persons. Due to logistics requirements, groups over 14 persons must split in two sub groups, performing the programme in two successive runs. In that case the price remains on the basis of CL$ 32.000 per person.

If some of the participants are certified members of an astronomy organisation, a 15% discount is applicable to the whole group.

Upon reservation only, with a minimum anticipation of 2 days.

We request process the payment in that same delay, via bank transfert (ask for conditions). In some particular cases, we do accept payment cash at our agency, not later than 14H00 (2:00 p.m.) in the day of the Tour. Reservations not cancelled in the given delays will be annuled. We accept US dollars and euros (ask for conditions).

In case of annulation of the Tour for adverse weather conditions, we'll refund 100% of the amount paid.

NIGHT EXTREME: Cl$ 440.000 per group
The given price does not include transportation to the observatory, as this programme is intended for groups managed by national tour operators, or disposing of their own vehicles.

The price is per group, not depending on the number of participants, although it must not exceed 20 people. Due to logistics requirements, groups over 20 people must split in two sub groups, performing the programme in two successive runs.
In such a case, the price is CL$700.000 for the whole group.
If some of the participants are certified members of an astronomy organisation, a 15% discount is applicable to the whole group.

Upon reservation only, with a minimum anticipation of 7 days.

Payments must be processed in that delay, through bank transfert (ask for conditions), otherwise the reservation is annuled.

In case of annulation of the Tour for adverse weather conditions, we'll refund 100% of the amount paid.

JOURNEY EXTREME: For those groups who wish to observe for more than one night, we designed a saving schedule, as following:

2 consecutive nights: Cl$ 740.000
3 consecutive nights: Cl$ 1.180.000
4 consecutive nights: Cl$ 1.500.000

Similar to the previous one in terms and contents, except for the reservation delay that comes to 15 days.


SHOPPING AT THE OBSERVATORIO DEL PANGUE

We propose to our visitors a selection of items that you can reserve and pick up when visiting us. You'll find e.g. exclusive astronomical post cards, as well as high resolution astro pictures taken by our astronomers : check it all here!
In case you want some of these, just mention the references in your reservation form, and we'll deliver it to you when you come to register at our office.


HOW TO FIND US... AND WHEN
Please note that the Observatory is closed on the entire month of July...

Remember that the spectacle of the celestial sphere is significantly disminuished in presence of strong moonlight so, when planning a stargazing, it is highly recommended to avoid the nights around the Full Moon phase. In order to help you in preparing your observing session, we give a moon phase calendar (click here). Hence the Observatory remains closed on the next following moonlight nights:

June 15th to 22nd
July 15th to 20th
August 13th to 19th
September 12th to 17th
Additionally, we give the periods of visibility for the main planets (click on the table at left to enlarge).



Otherwise, any time of year is worth for astronomy: in summer, good weather conditions are almost guaranteed, but observing sessions begin late (22H00), while in winter, cloudy nights are more frequent but we start much earlier (18H00). The temperature as well is not an issue as we never get excessively cold nights in this area. Remember however that seasons are inverted in the southern hemisphere: winter runs from june to september, and summer from december to march.

See some brief local weather statistics in the above table (click to enlarge).


Then, as to find us, we give below a short description of the road from Santiago to the Observatory, although you may prefer to visualize it by using an interactive map (click here).

Santiago - La Serena: 480 km (300 mi.)
Air travelling is convenient since there are several flights connecting each day the international airport of Santiago to the airport of La Serena. Surface travelling also is easy, as the "Ruta 5 Norte" is a fast riding highway. Many bus companies reach la Serena every day (the journey lasts some 7 to 8 hours).

La Serena - Vicuña: 63 km (39 mi.)
The "Ruta 41" road is the only choice to reach Vicuña. To get there, you can choose either a bus from the many local companies, or a "colectivo" (collective taxicab). Note however that there is no such public transportation back to La Serena by night. Our office is located in the Plaza de Armas of Vicuña (address San Martin 233), quite close to the "Torre Bauer", the local icon.

NEW:
A Shuttle from the Airport of La Serena to Vicuña is available as a service of the Observatory. The cost is CL$60.000 for the group (up to 4 people). Service includes:
- Transfert from the airport to your hotel in Vicuña at your arrival;
- Transfert from your hotel in Vicuña to the airport for your departure;
Times and dates are scheduled according to your flights.
Upon reservation only, with a minimum anticipation of 2 days.

Vicuña - Observatorio del Pangue: 17 km (10 mi.)
The transfert from Vicuña to the observatory with our van is included in most of our programmes. However, if you have to go with your own vehicle, you may leave Vicuña through its southern exit, then reach a few meters ahead the intersection with the "Ruta D445", labelled as “Ruta Antakari”, leading south eventually to the town Hurtado. The entrance of the observatory stands exactly 16 km (10 mi.) from this intersection. The road is suitable for any vehicle (AWD is not necessary), although some steep curves in the last 2 kilometers may require a little care. The transfert at low speed lasts some 25 minutes (30 minutes if coming from the centre of Vicuña).

Furthermore, for any query you may have, don't hesitate to ask us at astronomicasur@gmail.com


FOR BOOKING NOW, CLICK HERE

THE STAFF

The "Observatorio del Pangue" has been originally planned by Astronomica del Sur Ltda. (ASDL), a company specialized in the realization of astronomical projects and training of personnel, for both public and private organizations. Managed by Eduardo Valenzuela Palma, ADSL was initially a successful company, having realized a series of astronomical facilities in Chile, such as the Observatorio Inca de Oro in 2007, right in the heart of the Atacama Desert, and the Explora Observatory in 2008, in San Pedro de Atacama, while preparing to develop its own facility, the Observatorio del Pangue. However, the administration of the original board practically led to bankrupcy. Fortunately, the french astronomer Eric Escalera managed to secure the infrastructures and equipments of the Observatory, that now runs successsfully as a proper entity. Indeed, the current Direction of ADSL is allowed to fulfill its initial commitment: deliver a high quality service, that everyone can fully enjoy...

Then from 2015, ASDL is also performing the management and operation of the new Great Solar Observatory of Chile


Director
Eric Escalera

Astronomer
Ph.D. in Astrophysics at the Université Paul Sabatier (Toulouse, France)


...somewhere in the Atacama Desert, Chile.


Principal Operator
Cristian Valenzuela Videla
Experienced amateur astronomer, astrophotographer


Magellan Telescopes, Las Campanas Observatory, Chile



Monitor
Emilio Lepeley Sepulveda


...feels comfortable on the asteroid-shaped exotic landscape of Chile (Comuna de Chañaral)

USEFUL INFO : WHERE ARE THE GREAT SCIENTIFIC OBSERVATORIES IN CHILE?

It is well known that Chile is hosting the largest number in the world of giant optical telescopes. Good enough for who would like to visit them all, they are concentrated in two areas only, that we present hereafter. Visits are free of charge, although it is required to book a long time in advance.


Around La Serena (480km North of Santiago)

Stated as the oldest town in Chile, this regional capital city has an airport well connected to Santiago (a dozen of daily flights are proposed). Some 60km (40 mi.) eastward of La Serena is a series of great observatories:


1. Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO)
One of the firsts scientific observatories in the country (1976). The main telescope is a 4-meter diameter class, still producing high level astrophysical results: e.g., a few years ago the acceleration of expansion of the Universe has been discovered here, and still today there are no definite theoretical interpretation of it...

2. Gemini South
A giant 8-meter diameter class telescope, initiated in 2001. This observatory has two identical telescopes, the other one (Gemini North) stands atop a high mountain in Hawai...

3. Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research (SOAR)
The most recent in the area (2006), hosting a 4-meter diameter class telescope that benefits of high technology (namely adaptative optics), making it more powerful than standard telescopes of the same class.

4. Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST)
Still in the building process, this 8-meter diameter class telescope should be completed in 2017. It will be unique in its kind, by holding a huge digital camera that allows to survey the entire celestial sphere every 3 days. No doubt that the most subtle changes in aspects or positions of any celestial body will be registered in live...


Some 150km (90 mi.) North of La Serena is another series of great observatories:


5. European Southern Observatory
Together with the Tololo, this venerable institution truly started the astrophysics research in Chile. The facility, also known as "La Silla Observatory", hosts several large telescopes. The main one, a 3.6-meter diameter class, looks rather "small" for the current standards, but fitted with state-of-the-art technology it still delivers premium scientific results, particularly in the field of detection of exo-planets.

6. Las Campanas Observatory
This facility is much more recent: the two identical telescopes, of 6.5-meter diameter class have been initiated in 2000 and 2002 respectively. Contrarily to the Gemini, those twins are settled together, facing each other...

7. Project : Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT)
Scheduled for completion in 2020, we reach here a much higher level, as this is a 24-meter diameter class telescope ! The site is within the domain of Las Campanas Observatory.


Around Antofagasta (1380km North of Santiago)

One of the largest regional capital cities of Chile, Antofagasta has an airport well connected to Santiago by several daily flights. A series of great scientific observatories stands 130km (80 mi.) south of the city:


8. Very Large Telescope (VLT)
Also referred as "Parranal Observatory", this facility belongs to the ESO (like La Silla). It holds, among others, a series of four 8-meter diameter class telescopes. Since 1998 they produced a huge amount of scientific discoveries.

9. Project : European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT)
Scheduled for completion in 2022, this telescope will remain the largest in the world for long, as this is a 39-meter diameter class instrument ! It stands on top of Cerro Armazones, a "hill" facing the Parranal Observatory, from where the ongoing works can be seen.


...and what about San Pedro de Atacama ? (300km East of Antofagasta)

People uses to believe that San Pedro is surrounded by giant scientific optical telescopes, but there are just none in the area !...

The mistake is certainly due to the fact that this is one of the most visited tourist station in the world, therefore it displays a huge amount of tourist agencies, among which are several touristic astronomical observatories: we reported 8 of them so far, not counting the great hotels (as Explora, Alto Atacama, Tierra Atacama...) which have their own observatories. However...

However, there is ALMA, a large array of parabolic dishes that collect the radiowaves (e.g. microwaves) from the Cosmos. It is quite unfair that this kind of instruments (also referred as "radio-telescopes") is not so much appreciated by the general public, who considers the actual telescopes and their visible light as far more spectacular. But ALMA is different. Without entering any technical detail, let's just specify that this array of dishes constitutes the most powerful radio-telescope in the world, and that seems to be a sufficient argument for including it in our list...


10. Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA)
Operative since 2014, this very large array of 65 parabolic dishes is spread over the altiplano of Chajnantor, some 80km (50 mi.) south to San Pedro de Atacama. Potential visitors must be aware that the entire site is located over 5,000 meters (15,000 feet) above sea level!