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Storm over the Atacama desert | by Juan-Carlos Munoz-Mateos
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Storm over the Atacama desert

Last week I witnessed one of the most amazing storms I’ve ever seen at Paranal Observatory. It seldom rains in the Atacama desert, but when it does you know you’re in for a show.


I took this shot at sunset. The direct sunlight only reached the bottom part of the clouds, coating them in golden shades, whereas the top parts were lit by the blue sky. In the distance there were several veils of rain sweeping the desert. We woke up to beautiful snow-capped Andes the next day. Stay tuned for pics ;-) The dome to the lower left is VISTA, a 4.1m telescope that takes wide field near-infrared images with the VIRCAM camera. In a few years VIRCAM will be replaced by 4MOST, an instrument that will take spectra of 2300 targets in a single shot. I love this telescope, because I was the Instrument Scientist of VIRCAM and I’m also involved in 4MOST.


The four round domes to the lower right host four robotic 1m telescopes called SPECULOOS (one of them hasn’t arrived yet). The rectangular building next to them is the Next Generation Transient Survey, 12 robotic 0.2m telescopes. Both SPECULOOS and the NGTS look for exoplanets by measuring the tiny eclipses they produce as the pass between their host stars and us.

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Taken on July 21, 2018