Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Desert Star Paradise

The BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé debuted on 6 March 2012. Its ad depicts the car at the Paranal Observatory, home of the Very Large Telescope. Image Source: Georg Fischer for BMW via ESO.

Here's a glitzy bit of marketing. This is the latest high-end BMW, parked at the futuristic desert setting of the Paranal Observatory in Chile, home of the European Southern Observatory. Below the jump is a recent film made in the vicinity of the ESO by astronomers from The World at Night.

The Paranal Observatory. Image Source: Chile.ca.

Video Source: TWAN via Youtube.

The Youtube notes on this video: "It's cold, it's dry, the air is thin. The nearest city is miles away across a barren landscape of boulder-strewn hills. At night, the only lights to guide you are the stars in the sky. Astronomers, welcome to paradise.

Known as the driest place on Earth, Chile's Atacama Desert has long been recognized as an ideal spot for ground-based telescopes. The skies are free of light pollution, and the high plains enjoy long stretches of steady atmospheric conditions, allowing astronomers to peer deeply into the cosmos without having to worry about turbulence distorting the data. (Related blog: "The Dry Edge of Life—Studying 'Martians' in Chile.")

In the new time-lapse movie above, photographers Christoph Malin and Babak Tafreshi (founder of The World at Night, or TWAN, program) offer a rarely seen glimpse of Cerro Paranal, one of the high hills in the Atacama that houses instruments for the European Southern Observatory(ESO).

Made by invitation from the ESO, the video includes more than 7,500 still images taken between October and November 2011. It shows the beauty of the dark Atacama skies, sometimes framed by the four main domes of the Very Large Telescope, as well as a brief "behind the scenes" look at what telescope operators see from inside one of the domes.

In an email to National Geographic, Tafreshi says of the Atacama:

There are not many locations left on this planet where you can still experience a dark sky like this. I have been to similar dark skies in other continents, from the heart of Sahara in Algeria to Himalayas or islands in the Pacific. But what makes Atacama beat others is being dry and clear for so many nights per year.

It's not permitted for tourists and regular visiting groups to stay on Paranal at night time, as it might affect the expensive work time of the ultrahigh-precision telescopes. However, to enjoy the stunning night sky of Atacama it's not necessary to be on this mountain or exactly this region. ... [You] just need to be far from the few main cities in the area and the dusty mine industry. Some of our footage in this video is also made from mountains and desert areas some kilometers away from Paranal.

Walking on the desert near Paranal between the scattered stones and boulders on the pale red dust feels like being on Mars, but under the Earth sky.

One of the most astonishing experiences under such a starry sky is the view of the Milky Way. In several scenes of the film, the setting arc of the Milky Way is captured over the cloud-covered Pacific coastline. The band of the Milky Way is bulged and becomes most brilliant toward the galactic center in the constellation Sagittarius, which is prominent in these scenes. Watching the arc of the Milky Way near the desert horizon is a true scene of science fiction."

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