When we arrived on Monday, we spent the night in a hotel in Antofagasta. Tonight is the second night in a hotel. We’ve been camping out in the Atacama, far from niceties such as cell phone reception, internet access, or running water. It gets cold at night out there, and the temperature was flirting with 0°C. You basically bundle up to go to bed. I was looking forward to tonight’s hot shower all week.
The stars, however, are amazing. For one thing, we’re in the southern hemisphere, so we get to see parts of the sky that simply cannot be seen at home. For another, we were far enough from any city or town that we could see far more stars than I can at home. Even when I know that I’m looking at a familiar constellation (like Taurus), I find it hard to pick out the shape because there are so many “extra” stars in the area. The Milky Way is a beautiful sight, and it’s a fine thing to see so much of it.
Between our hotel nights we’ve visited plenty of sites, and been able to learn a lot at each. The Atacama is extremely dry, and the altitude can be punishing. Despite that, there is indeed life in the Atacama. It’s in the rocks, in the soil, in thin layers of mud. We’ve done a good job of testing our prototypes, and we’re learning a lot about the sample needs of the instruments.