South American trip (6) – Salar de Uyuni – Salt Desert in Bolivia

The experience there at night leaves you speechless. I could say magnificent, galactic. I was in an area of the desert flooded with water about 10-20 cm from the “permasal”. I got rubber boots and went down to the pictures. The water was very very cold and you could feel it even through your boots and 3 pairs of socks.

Photo credit: Attila Munzlinger

We managed to take magnificent pictures. I didn’t manage to get exactly the mirrored galaxy effect in the water, because there were still a few gusts of wind that stirred the water a bit and distorted the reflection in the water mirror a bit. But the pictures turned out super amazing anyway and the Galactic experience, the sky being extraordinarily clear, without light pollution.

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South American trip (5) – Moon Valley and Flamingos

About the Valley of the Moon, what can I say? It was yet another transcendental experience.

We stayed all night to take pictures of the starry sky and the rock formations in the valley of the moon park. And a funny incident or adventure. The park is closed at night as is normal. But we, that is, me and Valentin Grigore, after taking pictures and exhausting the potential of the belvedere observation point on the side of the road, we decided to enter the park anyway.

Well don’t imagine that belvedere point was right on the side of the road I did some climbing and stayed for hours at that point. But it wasn’t enough for a whole night, was it?

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South American trip (4) – Chile

Atacama Desert, Valley of Death (Valley of Mars) and ALMA Astronomical Telescop

The time spent in Chile, I divide it into 2 parts, one before Easter Island, the 2nd, after Easter Island. Although the eclipse event is placed in the first part of the Chile experience, I would say that the second part was much more attractive and much more beautiful in terms of landscape and nature.

Thus in the 2nd part of continental Chile we had the opportunity to see a giant stone hand in the middle of the desert, to see the monument of the tropics, take night pictures in the Moon Valley, a place with gems all over de ground, walk the sand dunes in the Valley of Death or the Valley of Mars, where I saw sand dunes surfing and an almost Martian landscape.

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South America (2): Introduction to Chile and the Solar Eclipse

Valparaiso, Solar Eclipse and the Penguins

Let me tell you about the mega trip of about 6,000 euros for a month in South America, the trip where I visited Buenos Aires in Argentina, Chile, saw the solar eclipse in Chile, went to the desert, took night photos, I saw petroglyphs in the desert but also Easter Island in the Pacific 3,500 km from the coast, I was in the salt desert of Bolivia with its cacti island, I saw Machu Pichu, Nazca and the old pyramids of Caral. Really fascinated.

Most of the South American trip took place in Chile for a two-week period, half of the trip. In Chile we also achieved our final objective, that of observing and photographing the Solar Eclipse 2019 and also in Chile we took the most night photographs in fascinating, interesting, strange places such as the Hand of the Desert monument in Atacama or the formations of semi-precious stones from Death Valley (or Mars Valley) and Moon Valley.

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Geneva, the surroundings of Lake Leman and CERN

I flew to Geneva on Thursday 30 November and returned on Sunday 3 December. I discovered a small but important city, located in a perfect location: next to the huge Lake Leman, at the foot of the Alps. On this occasion I could not miss the visit to the CERN particle accelerator.

Geneva is a kind of Sibiu if it had a lake, better jobs and high mountains nearby. The architecture of the city brings Sibiu. French is spoken in Geneva and the inhabitants have an interesting mix between German and French. If Geneva were a person, she would be a blonde Frenchwoman, passionate about mountains and water sports, very well educated and with a job that pays better than the European average.

The Bucharest – Geneva and return flight cost about 200 euros, with not very big stops in Zurich. First impression small and flirty. But I was analyzing it through the lens of the fact that I already knew that in Switzerland, namely Geneva, people live very well and earn much more than the European average.

On the first day, I visited CERN, which you can reach in about 30 minutes from the center, by tram 18. For the visit, I made an appointment 2 weeks in advance on the CERN website. It is very easy to miss the appointment as there is a significant number of requests for these tours. The tour consists of 2 hours with a university professor and takes you through a presentation room, to decommissioned particle accelerator and analysis facilities, through the courtyard of the complex, past one of the Atlas detector control centers.

I was impressed with the visitor center and the fact that all visitor services are free. It can be seen that the European Organization for Nuclear Research tries its best to be very transparent, given that it swallows significant amounts of money allocated to research. And not for nothing – I don’t know how many know that many medical technologies in current use now came from research done at CERN for original scientific purposes. Oh, and the world wide web also came from CERN out of concern for easier communication between researchers all over the world. Romania also contributes to CERN.

I stayed 5 hours in total. There is also a small tour that you can do right from the visitor center, with equipment in display cases or equipment reproductions. The exhibition is fascinating. Especially the particle cloud chamber where you can view live the cosmic particles that pass through us, past us, everywhere. (hint 1). There is also a small souvenir shop where you can also buy data storage boxes resulting from particle collisions – data that the researchers probably don’t need anymore.

In short, it is well worth visiting CERN, especially since it is not difficult to get there.

On the second day we walked a little around Geneva (when we were walking there was a marathon in full swing through the city center) and, together with a friend from Geneva, we chose to visit a small town 30 minutes away by train – Nyon. The sunset over the lake, the castles, the yachts… speachless. And the mountains that can be seen on the horizon. I have no words except pictures..

In Nyon, on the shores of Lake Leman, in the Leman restaurant, near the street of lost time (for real) I tasted the best fries ever – in the perfect balance of crunch and size. Well, but small and just the right amount of crispy. Accompanied by one of the best burgers ever. Bill about 60 euros, hamburger, salad, potatoes, large salad with chicken, beers, etc. Not bad, and by the lake.

Hint 1:

A condensing particle chamber (Wilson Cloud Chamber) is a particle detector used to visualize the passage of ionizing radiation. Subatomic particles can be watched live as they move through the chamber. Such a chamber consists of a sealed environment containing a vapor supersaturated with water or alcohol. An energetically charged particle (eg, an alpha or beta particle) interacts with the gas mixture by knocking electrons from gas molecules through electrostatic forces during collisions, resulting in a trail of ionized gas particles. The resulting ions act as condensation centers around which a droplet-like track forms if the gas mixture is at the condensation point. These droplets are visible as a “cloud” trail that persists for several seconds as the droplets fall through the vapor. These pieces have characteristic shapes. For example, an alpha particle track is thick and straight, while an electron track is jagged and shows more evidence of collisional deformations. Cloud chambers played a prominent role in experimental particle physics from the 1920s to the 1950s, until the advent of the bubble chamber. In particular, the discoveries of the positron in 1932 by Carl Anderson (awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1936), and of the muon in 1936, used cloud chambers. In each case, cosmic rays were the source of the ionizing radiation.

The Great American Eclipse 2017

The Great American Solar Eclipse lasted only 2min 17sec, that’s how long the fragment of totality on August 21st was. The main goal was to see the eclipse.. But as the USA is a vast territory with many challenges and attractions, the eclipse turned out to be only one of the many attractions of the tour on the North American continent. Thus, the “Great American Expedition” took us through 8 states, from one ocean to another, through more than 6 national parks, 5000 km of driving and 3 domestic flights. It was a very dense tour in objectives, in which I discovered an America that was nothing exaggerated compared to the movies, as I understood them, and far beyond the opinions of those who had been there before me and shared my a priori viewpoints.

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Canary Expedition 2015

In May 2015 I went on my second astronomical expedition to the Canary Islands. Second year in a row. Because I’m passionate about astronomy and because La Palma – La Isla Bonita. La Palma is home to the largest optical astronomical observatory in the world and a park with many other national observatories. It is a Mecca for astronomers, along with Chile and Hawaii, has special anti-light pollution legislation and one of the most beautiful skies in the world. But astronomy is not everything in La Palma. Although it is only 42 km long and 28 km wide, the diversity of this island is the size of an entire continent. The Isle of Eternal Spring.


The island of La Palma in the Canary archipelago is addictive. I was only two years in a row, but Vali Grigore, one of the organizers of the expedition, was about 10 times in a row, year after year. In short, La Palma is a tropical island with a perfect climate of eternal spring, with high volcanoes, in North-West Africa, but which belongs to Spain and has an infrastructure worthy of any Western European territory (much better than in Romania ). Obviously, it is an area of the European Union, with the euro currency. Besides, when I was there, the prices were low, almost like in Bucharest.

Why don’t they all go there.. Because tourists with fitze are mostly attracted to the neighboring island of Tenerife, and in terms of housing, because outside of vacations you have limited possibilities of expression and earning: astronomy, salt mining, tourism, hotels and restaurants, stone. The area is considered, at best, underprivileged by the Spanish. Please, don’t tell anyone, don’t crowd there.. The sand on the beach is pitch black so you definitely wouldn’t like it there..

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Canary 2014 – First encounter with paradise

In 2014 I decided that my soul needed another hobby, I searched deep in my memories and realized that I have always been fascinated by the stars. From this moment, without dwelling on other redundant thoughts, I sought to act concretely towards astronomy. I remembered an astronomy club attended 10 years ago by my then girlfriend.

Then, 10 years ago, the stars had fallen asleep in my mind. I hadn’t been to any of their meetings even though she had a telescope and I remember she invited me every time. All at their time.

At the beginning of my life, when I looked up at the black and starry sky in the countryside, in Argeș, I saved that memory among the few that mark your life. From then until my hormones went crazy in my teenage years, I would want to be an astronaut and an explorer.

Then followed a life full of form, disengaged, productive, sometimes depressed, but without salt and pepper for the soul.

The reawakening of my soul had begun shyly since around 2012, with the first mountain hikes. This step would have taken me even further towards reconnecting and defining myself as a person.

From these memories to the first step towards astronomy, it was just a google search. Google search, “astronomy, SARM”. “It’s like SARM was called, from sarmale..”. The result sends me to the page of the Romanian Astronomical Society of Meteors (SARM), more precisely to their excursion page.

“Yes, a trip like that would be a good step,” I thought. I called, booked a place and in a few months we were leaving for the Canary Islands.

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