Shop Windows to the Universe

Our Glaciers: Then and Now activity kit helps you see the changes taking place in glaciers around the world. See all our activity kits and classroom activities.

    Image courtesy of Katrien Uytterhoeven

From: Katrien Uytterhoeven
European Southern Observatory, Chile, July 4, 2010

Winter observing in July

Remember me? Last month I was observing targets of the Kepler space mission at Teide Observatory on Tenerife. Now I am in Chile to observe targets of the CoRoT space mission. CoRoT is a satellite devoted to the study of stellar pulsations, and observes about 10 pulsating stars continuously for a period of 150 days, then moves on to the next 10 stars, and so on. By studying the light variations captured by CoRoT, we can obtain information about stellar oscillations, and through the oscillations we learn more about the stellar interior.

To understand the stellar oscillations better, we also study variations in the stellar spectrum. To do so, we observe the CoRoT targets with spectrographs from telescopes on the ground. To monitor the oscillations properly, we need to follow the stars over several weeks. Obtaining telescope time for many nights at the same telescope is very difficult! To solve this problem, we observe the same stars with different telescopes. For the CoRoT project we observe from Chile, France, Canary Islands, and New Zealand.

I am currently observing my fourth, and next-to-last night with the high-resolution spectrograph HARPS on the 3.6m telescope at the European Southern Observatory La Silla in Chile. The first two nights were perfect, but since yesterday we are fighting against the wind. If the wind blows faster than 15 m/s we cannot observe in the wind direction, and if the wind exceeds a speed of 20 m/s we have to close the dome. Yesterday I could not observe for most of the night. In Chile it is wintertime, which means that the nights are long. In good weather conditions I can observe for almost 12 hours per night!

La Silla is my favorite observatory, as the scenery and atmosphere are very magical. I love coming to observe here, which is on average once every 1.5 years. Several telescopes (with mirror sizes from 0.5m to 3.6m) are dotted on the mountain top, surrounded by the Atacama desert. Three weeks from now I will explore another observatory: McDonald Observatory in Texas, US. I am very excited as I have never observed there before!

Postcards from the Observatory

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Watching stars pulsate from Tenerife

I am Katrien, a Belgian astronomer. I have been working in several European countries and I am currently based in Paris, France. My research is very exciting as I study stars that pulsate! This means...more


Wind is moving air. Warm air rises, and cool air comes in to take its place. This movement creates different pressures in the atmosphere which creates the winds around the globe. Since the Earth spins,...more

North and South: Opposite Seasons

NASA's Earth Observatory has recently started making images of the entire surface of the Earth every month. There are no clouds in the images because they combine many pictures taken at different times...more

Penguin Colonies

This is Ross Island, a volcanic island embedded in the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Adelie penguins are found all around Antarctica, but we will be filming the documentary at the breeding colonies shown...more

View from our home

This is a view of the Adelie penguin breeding colony at Cape Royds in Antarctica. In the foreground you see Shackleton’s hut. Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team of explorers tried and failed to cross the...more

Time to Raise the Chicks

We are at Cape Royds, Ross Island, Antarctica, a penguin breeding colony of several thousand Adelie penguins. This female is 8 years old and has been a successful breeder in the past. She was first seen...more

Ice, Fire, and Penguins

Cape Royds penguin breeding colony is in the shadow of Mt Erebus, one of three volcanoes on Ross Island and the only active one. Antarctica Explorer James Clark Ross named two of the volcanoes after his...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF