I’ve been to many countries and cities, but one of the most memorable trips to me still is my vacation a couple of years ago to SAO RAS in Arkhyz, Russia with Astrovert group. It was so facinating that this year I decided to travel there again.
What is Astrovert
Astrovert is a company founded by Russian astronomer Stas Korotky, that organises tours lead by scientists to specific locations all over the world like observatories and telescopes and events like solar eclipses, space launches and auroras. Nights are usually spent studying the stars and constellations and days - with tours and presentations about space, solar system, stars life cycles, dark matter and many other related topics.
Our first day started at 3am with brief telescope viewing and then heading to the nearest mountain peak: Gora Pastukhova (2733m).
We lived in SAO RAS hotel near the main complex about 2km above the sea level.
Gora Pastukhova can be seen from the hotel balcony (the left one):
So we had to climb only 700m. But the terrain is rather rough and it takes 5-6 hours to climb there in winter or early spring. Now in May we spent only 3 hours to get to the top with brief stops to have a snack and take some pictures.
Clounds below us at 2km level:
Sunrise in the mountains at 04.54 AM:
The rising sun started to color the nearest hills and peaks:
And after a couple of hours we saw a picturesque view of the valley below:
Last part of the climbing to the top was the most difficult as there’s still deep and soft snow left. And every step puts you knee-deep into the snow. Photo by Ivan Ushtey:
But it was worth it:
About to pass through the cloud on the way down:
After a brief rest we had a tour to BTA-6: Unlike radio telescopes optical ones must be located high in the mountains to minimize the atmosphere effect. And also far from large cities so that illumination from the city doesn’t interfere with the observations.
BTA is a 6-metre aperture optical telescope, one of the largest in the world. It took 10 years from 1964 to 1974 to build the first mirror that weighted 42000kg. Later it was replaced with an enhanced one in 2018. The only road to BTA-6 (and astronomer complex) from the foot of the mountain was designed specifically for such mirror transportation.
Inside BTA-6: The rod inside the black ring is a block of sensors. It’s closed with a lid as this telescope operates only at night.
Next day and night were all about observations. Preparations by Stas:
During the day it’s possible to use special coronado telescope to view the sun:
It’s even possible to make a photo of the moon just with a phone and a telescope:
Also Jupiter and Saturn can be clearly observed and recognised.
The next day we set off to look at RTF-32 radiotelescope.
The road took several hours until we finally arrived to Zelenchukskaya observatory:
The main telescope there is RTF-32: It works with 1.35 - 21cm wavelengths and its main purpose is precisely detecting Earth position in space and therefore correcting geolocation services that can have errors due to instability in Earth rotation.
Zhores Alferov, a Soviet and Russian physicist and academic donated a lot of his nobel prize money to build this observatory:
Our final stop was RATAN-600. It’s the largest “monolithic” radio telescope. It’s 600m in diameter and is able to work with 0.8 — 50cm wavelengths. So it can observe close objects like the Sun, solar wind, planets and satellites and also distant objects like radiogalaxies, quasars and space microwave background radiation.
Scheme of the rays under different observation modes:
Astrovert provide unique experience to get closer to the deep space, to understand how the Universe was born and lives now and what we can expect in the future. SAO RAS complex in the mountains is amazing with fresh thin air and beautiful nights where you can see all the stars with your own eyes. I’d definitely recommend looking through their website and consider booking their nearest trips. I’m personally looking forward to new tours with them.
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