Apocalyptic weather on Paranal

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As some would say: “the Winter is coming…”

Threatening Clouds over Paranal Observatory

Threatening clouds over Paranal Observatory

This is unusual to get such dark and threatening clouds above one of the driest place on Earth. But it’s been so for two days and we just hope that no drops of rain will fall down because the Observatory is not made for rain and that’s just more hassle for the staff and of course for the occasional visitors who are not getting their projects done.

Tonight it got worse, the wind is blowing over 20 meters/second (45 miles/hour) and the humidity rose above 50% due to the proximity of the clouds.

In the morning it did look promising though… I really like this metallic light and feeling we get just before sunrise (not much sun today). The horizon was so clear, we could see the snow on the Cordillera a few hundred km away as well as on the 6739m (21,300 ft) Llullaillaco Volcano which is in Argentina.

night is over, clouds are there

night is over, clouds are there

But the Observatory routine (and life!) does not stop. The cleaning ladies walk towards the residencia…

Usual morning walk from the "village" to the Residencia, under the unusual clouds.

Usual morning walk from the “village” to the Residencia, under the unusual clouds.

At night, after a rough day of work taking care of all the instruments and facilities some French engineers play with their “toys for boys”: they fly helicopters in the gym!

Sebastien Poupar flying his helicoper

Sebastien Poupar flying his helicoper

Pierre Bourget tuning his big helicopter

Pierre Bourget tuning his big helicopter

At the end of the night, the scenery is impressive. Here’s a long exposure shot above the Residencia at 6:00am. we can see the Southern Cross making its way through the moving clouds and the important airglow. The night isn’t completely lost, at least for me!

Entering a cloudy twilight, back to the Residencia!

Entering a cloudy twilight, back to the Residencia!

You can see more photos about the past 48 hours of cloudy Paranal on this Flickr Photo Set.

Roger shoots

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