Atacama Desert and Volcanic Twilight

August 01, 2022



Photographer: Tomas Slovinsky  
Summary Author: Tomas Slovinsky; Jim Foster

The photo above showing a reddened twilight sky over a barren landscape comes from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. It was taken on April 22, 2022. The Atacama Desert is almost at the same latitude as the Tonga Volcano that erupted in December of 2021. Throughout the autumn months (spring in the Northern Hemisphere), during each twilight period the sky was imbued with deep red colors as volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere acted to increase the pathlength of sunlight (and moonlight), thereby effectively extinguishing the shorter wavelength colors from our view.

In many ways, the resulting landscape/nightscape resembled that of Mars at sunset. Also found in the Atacama are ancient, dry riverbeds, not too dissimilar from the ones discovered on Mars, where water once flowed in the past. On evenings such as this, you could almost imagine that you were on the Red Planet. Note that the patch of light at right center, to the right of the Milky Way, is the Large Magellanic Cloud.


San Pedro de Atacama, Chile Coordinates: -22.9087, -68.1997

Related Links:

Atacama Desert Nightscape

Tomas’ Website