Three days have passed since the solar eclipse and I’m sitting in the Atacama Desert on the final leg of my South American adventure. As I’m writing this I’m looking at Licancabur, a volcano in the Cordillera de los Andes near San Pedro with the classic volcanic conical shape.
As we were flying into Calama two nights ago, the new crescent Moon, fresh from the eclipse the day before was visible just after sunset and I was able to grab a couple of images from the aircraft window.
Yesterday we visited Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna) and the Dead Valley. Moon Valley is so named due to its similarity in appearance to the lunar landscape, with the sand and stone formations created by water and wind. Dead Valley somewhat resembled the surface of Mars and our guide said that the Martian rovers were tested in parts of the valley due to this resemblance. Near a large crack in one mountain, you could hear the salt expanding in the sunlight and it sounded like the mountain was talking to us. We finished the day with sunset over the area, watching the changing colours over the landscape and the nearby mountains and volcanoes.
Last night I was able to do some imaging in the wonderfully dark skies here, just outside our hotel, North Terra. We are not situated in the centre of town but a little outside, so stepping 50 metres from the hotel plunges you into complete darkness with only the soft glow from the few distant street lights and the main town.
Reflecting back on the eclipse, our observing site was very well setup with breakfast and lunch provided under a large marquee style tent with plenty of shade (very important in the hills around Vicuña). Observing with a group of people, about 250 at our site, really adds to the atmosphere of the day and is a great way to watch an eclipse. There is great comradery with complete strangers and everyone chatting and sharing experiences, both past and present, as well as images.
The eclipse itself was amazing as I have already mentioned in my previous blog. I did notice what I thought was one prominence while I was taking images but it wasn’t until later when I was reviewing my images, I realized there were at least five, two small, two medium and one very large prominence. During totality, many of the brighter stars and planets can often be seen and some of my companions spotted both Mercury and Mars during totality. My attention was focused solely on the eclipse this time, taking images and video of totality – two minutes thirty-five seconds does go quickly and with such a spectacular corona this time, I took some time out to just stand and admire the sight – some advice given to me many years ago by Martin George, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery collections and research manager, which I have heeded for every totality I’ve been to. This was my ninth totality and I’m looking forward to my tenth – where that will be is now the question!