Skip to comments.Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Night in the Andes Ice Forest
Posted on 09/08/2013 11:58:50 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
Explanation: This forest of snow and ice penitentes reflects moonlight shining across the Chajnantor plateau. The region lies in the Chilean Andes at an altitude of 5,000 meters, not far from one of planet Earth's major astronomical observatories, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Up to several meters high, the flattened, sharp-edged shapes, and orientation of the penitentes tend to minimize their shadows at local noon. In the dry, cold, thin atmosphere, sublimation driven by sunlight is important for their formation. A direct transition from a solid to a gaseous state, sublimation shapes other solar system terrains too, like icy surfaces of comets and the polar caps of Mars. Above the dreamlike landscape stretches the southern night sky. Their own forms rooted in myth, look for the constellations Pegasus, Andromeda, and Perseus near the panorama's left edge. Bright and colorful stars of Orion the Hunter are near center, with the Large Magellanic Cloud and the South Celestial Pole on the far right.
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I suspect there are very similar scenes on Mars.
I don’t know. There’s something about that photo that reminds me of the time Donna took me cross-country skiing and a penitente seemed to rise up from nowhere and knocked her skis off.
Were you skiing in New Mexico?
(Obscure NM religious reference.)
That looks like the Martian landscape.
I half-expected to see Sheila Jackson Lee’s flag in the background...
Have spent a fair amount of time up in the Atacama near the area.
Never knew of or got to see this ice forest, but the Atacama sure resembles the Moon. No plants or animals for hundreds of miles. No rain, but nightly heavy fog. Very intriguing region!
I imagine it’s pretty Chile up there ...
Anyone know how these things form just all by themselves on the dirt?
an astonishing landscape that scant few will ever see firsst hand.
Id love the opportunity to be able to photograph it .
Strange seeing Orion upside down.
Nope. I’ve never been cross country skiing in New Mexico. I’m looking forward to retiring there, though. A guy sold me some beachfront property on the Gulf of New Mexico!
Well, there are some spectacularly beautiful places to go.