The Daily Traveler: Amazing Observatories Around the World Perfect for Stargazing

Amazing Observatories Around the World Perfect for Stargazing

If Cosmos has piqued your interest in the stars, then you need to add one of these incredible observatories to your bucket list. Perched upon mountaintops and even volcanoes, these high-tech towers are perfect for studying the heavens from behind a telescope.

Antofagasta, Chile
Chile has become a hotspot for the science, and there are at least a dozen observatories—at various levels of tourist-friendliness—working within the country's borders. Operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), Paranal is open to weekend visitors, who come to see the simply named Very Large Telescope (VLT). The VLT is actually comprised of four smaller telescopes—named Antu, Kueyen, Melipal, Yepun, meaning Sun, Moon, Southern Cross, and Venus in the indigenous Mapuche language—which can be used in tandem to create an interferometer that allows astronomers to see details up to 25 times finer than they could with individual telescopes.
Visit: Free, guided tours are offered on Saturdays at 10 am and 2 pm. There is no charge, but reservations are required.

Click through to see the full slideshow at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Photo: Gabriel Brammer/dpa/Corbis

The Daily Traveler: Solar Flares


How Solar Flares Interfere with Flights

Yesterday a massive solar flare—the biggest since 2005—had irksome consequences here on Earth, including forcing airlines to divert some of their flights. But how could the sun affect our air travel—and how big is the danger? We asked scientists to break it down for us.

First off, the phenomenon is not rare. "Solar flares happen all the time," says C. Megan Urry, chair of the Department of Physics at Yale University and director of the Yale Center for Astronomy & Astrophysics. "They have a range of brightnesses and most are too small to affect the Earth very much, but, occasionally, there are super big ones, like the flare of November 4 last year."

During the solar flares, Urry explains, "Much of the energy is emitted at very short wavelengths: X-rays and ultraviolet light. The largest ones involve 'coronal mass ejections', or CME, that also send very energetic particles our way."

These particles are the source of the troubles—especially for airplane equipment. "Energetic particles from the solar flare impact on the upper atmosphere of the Earth and ionize it, or release charged particles," says Jules Halpern, professor of astronomy at Columbia University. "The more ions there are, the more difficult it is for radio waves to propagate. This is particularly a problem for communication with flights going over the North Pole."

The equipment isn't the only thing at risk, however. "Exposing flight attendants and passengers to these particles is not a good idea," Urry says. "They could cause cell damage or mutations."

On the bright—no pun intended—side, Urry notes that "these particles should also cause unusually bright Northern Lights," for those lucky enough to be in areas that can see them.