Constellations: Carina, Centaurus, Corvus, Crux, Hydrus, Orion, Scorpius, Ursa Major
Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC)
Nebula: Coalsack, Eta Carina/NGC 3372
Stars: α Centauri, β Centauri, θ Carina
Herschel's Jewel Box/NGC4755, Omega Centauri, Southern Pleiades (IC 2601)
Planet: Jupiter, Venus
Messier Object: M42 (Orion Nebula)

Location: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile @ SPACE Lodge
Date: 2018-04-11
Time: 8:30 PM - 11:45 PM EST
Instrument: Visual + Binocular 10x42 IS + Televue 60 with 17.3 mm eyepiece
Transparency: Excellent (5)
Seeing: Excellent (5)
Temperature: ~ 11º C

No clouds or wind. Clear skies.

We were on the road at 7 AM for a 2-hour drive (98 km/ 61 miles) drive to the El Tatio geyser field – elevation of 14,173 feet / 4,320 m ASL). We saw the sun rise over the Andes and mention numerous vicuñas along the roadways. What sights! Then there it was - El Tatio! It’s an amazing place with over 80 active geysers – geyser cones, fumaroles, steaming soil, mud pots, and sinter terraces. It’s the 3rd largest geyser field in the world and the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Back into San Pedro for a Chicken enchilada crema supper– fabulous! We also picked up some empanada pollo for tomorrow.

El Tatio geyser field
El Tatio geyser cone

We spent the rest of the evening at the Lodge observing the night skies. I managed to get most of the targets for this evening. One pleasant surprise was Scorpius that rose on its side well above the horizon. I also watched as α Crux rotated 90° in orientation for “SE” to “SW”; read about it below. When I became chilled enough, it was time for bed.

Time: not recorded

S&T Chart Reference: 48, 49, 59
Instrument: Visual
Group observing with Dave, Melody and Charline. After locating Crux, I verified I could find the stars in Centaurus with α and β being especially bright.

Omega Centauri
Time: not recorded
S&T Chart Reference: 48, 49, 59
Instrument: visual + Binoculars 
Once again held up the binoculars after visually locating the cluster - and found it. Such a thrill to see!

Coalsack Nebula
Time: not recorded

S&T Chart Reference: 49, 50
Instrument: Visual + Binoculars 
Very easy to find below Crux. To the naked eye, it was an easily found large dark area in the Milky Way.  With Binoculars, you could see a few stars.

Time: not recorded
S&T Chart Reference: 10, 20
Instrument: Visual 
Identified a couple of stars that were at an angle to each other and to the left of the SMC. Identified the tree stars of this constellation - α, β,  and γ.

Carina (the "Keel")
Time: not recorded
S&T Chart Reference: 28, 30, 39, 40
Instrument: Visual
The triangle formed by α, β and ε Carinae was readily identified. θ Carinae was identified because of the visibility of the Southern Pleiades. I attempted to visually locate all the stars in this constellation but did not succeed.

Eta (η) Carina / NGC 3372
Time: not recorded
S&T Chart Reference: 38, 39, 40
Instrument: Visual + Binoculars 
Located the nebula with my binoculars.

Southern Pleiades / IC 2602 / θ Carinae Cluster
Time: not recorded
S&T Chart Reference: 38, 40
Instrument: Visual + Binoculars 
Used binoculars to view the Southern Pleiades. Located it first visually before using the binoculars.

Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) / PGC 17223 / Nubecular Major
Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) / PGC 3085 / Nubecual Minor
Time: ~ 9:19 PM EST 
S&T Chart Reference: 10, 20, 30
Instrument: Visual
The LMC and SMC are ever present in the night skies. The "oh wow" moments never stop. The galaxies seem to swirl around the crown of the tree in the field adjacent to our Lodge, with the SMC disappearing in its branches in the latter part of the evening.

Time: 9:20 PM EST
S&T Chart Reference: 47
Instrument: Visual
I identified all but Alchiba. Hope to find it tomorrow.

Time: 9:25 PM +11:13 PM (+ photo at 4:03 AM) EST
S&T Chart Reference: 38, 49, 50
Instrument: visual + Binoculars 
Observing with Melody, Charline and Dave. Throughout the evening was able to observe the shift in orientation of Crux.

9:25 PM: looked like γ Crux was pointing to 10 o'clock.
11:13 PM: looked like γ Crux was pointing to 11 o'clock.
4:03 AM: In a photo Jerry took at 4:03 AM, γ Crux was pointing to 2 o'clock.


Herschel's Jewel Box / NGC 4755
Time: not recorded
S&T Chart Reference: 38
Instrument: Visual + Binoculars 
Used my binoculars to locate beta Crux then found the Jewel Box. Such a beautiful and bright teardrop-shaped nebula. This nebula was appropriately named.

Orion & M42
Time: not recorded
S&T Chart Reference: 14, 16, B
Instrument: Visual
Still surprised to see the Hunter on his side, almost as if having a nap while traversing the southern skies. The jewel in his sword (M42) was easily identified.

Venus (in Aries)
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Venus Set: ~ 8:35 PM EST
Instrument: Visual
Venus was only about 2º above the horizon. Very bright and no twinkling.

Jupiter (in Libra)
Time: 11:16 PM EST
Instrument: Visual
Jupiter had moved slightly closer to the imaginary line between β and γ.


Ursa Major
Time: 10:58 PM EST
S&T Chart Reference: 31, 32, 33, 43, F
Instrument: Visual
It was interesting to see this rise above the horizon - upside down. Initially, Dubhe hid behind the branches of a tree but soon made its appearance. Mizar-Alcor easily seen with binoculars.


Time: 11:01 PM EST
S&T Chart Reference: 56, 58, J
Instrument: Visual
First saw this orientation here in the Atacama on April 9 during the sky tour with Alain Maury and casually observed it on the 10th.

All of Scorpius was above the sky line! Haven't seen it all above the horizon since Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah (May 2017) and Acadia National Park, Maine (August, 2017). Although the sketch shows it at an angle, it truly was lying on its side along the horizon with θ and ι only 1º above the horizon. Despite the lower declination, I was able to see how close Shaula and Lessath really are.

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