Atacama Desert Nightscape

August 11, 2021


Photographer: Alexis Trigo

Summary Author: Alexis Trigo; Cadan Cummings

This great rock formation is called Monje de La Pacana and it is located in the middle of the Atacama Desert and the Andes Mountain range. Sculpted over innumerable years, this rock structure is a great example of how wind erosion shapes the desert landscape. Due to the hyper-arid climate of the Atacama Desert, some landscapes and rock features can be as old as 10-15 million years old. Another result of the extremely dry climate and high elevation (14,350 ft or 4375 m) is exceptionally dark skies. This region is one of the darkest places in the world, meaning even the brightness of the stars appears to cast slight shadows on the ground. The night sky brightness is class 1 on the Bortle scale, which allows unaided observation of celestial objects in magnitude of 7.6 to 8 along with airglow visible on the horizon. On the right side you can see the Large and Small Magellanic clouds.  Photo taken November 16, 2020.

View Larger Map