The moons and planets came out to play: Stargazing in San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama, because of its dry climate and high altitude makes the perfect place for stargazing. Oh, and it just so happens to host some of the world’s largest optical reflecting telescopes. Needless to say, this was one tour I would not be missing out on!

I was lucky.

During full moon the tours are closed as you’re not able to see anything. Good thing was that my dates in San Pedro fell just so that I had one day to spend after full moon before going back to La Paz.

You can book the tour the same day a few hours before departure. The three-hour excursions leave around 19:00 and 23:00. I went on the earlier one. Prices are roughly the same across all agencies and they all feed you snacks and hot beverages. But don’t count on the tea to keep you warm, it gets very very cold so bring a jacket or two.

There is the option of doing it in either Spanish or English. Our guide was perhaps not the best one; he thought that the sun was only 5,000 years old. Maybe he still had some reading to do. Maybe it was a language barrier. Maybe the sun is 5,000 years old. Who knows! (I wouldn’t put any money down for the last one though…)

Anyway, we were able to observe star-clusters, Jupiter, Saturn and the moon. Seeing them in real life through a telescope is just such a different experience than looking at a photograph. It’s really mind boggling. And it leads way to one of my least favorite thoughts: the size of the universe. Yes, it’s weird. But it’s true. I hate thinking about it. It’s just so incomprehensible and makes your mind go banananananas in all sorts of directions.

 

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Stargazing in the freezing cold
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Got pretty close to señor moon. No pictures of the other planets unfortunately as they were too far to make a good iPhone shot through the telescope.

“Cool story, bro. But how much did it cost?”

Tour: 15,000 CLP

Total: 15,000 CLP

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