Category Archive: Volcán Láscar

Clear Skies in Northern Chile: Great for Volcanology, Astronomy, and Beautiful Views

Lascar volcano in the light of the setting sun (click to embiggen)

I came accross a news article today that reminded me how much great science happens in Chile — and not just volcanology. I’m talking about the great astronomical data that comes from northern Chile’s many observatories. Thanks to the extreme altitude of the Altiplano, Chile’s northern half has exceptionally clear skies that allow for some very precise astronomical imaging of some very, very faint objects.

Astronomers at Arizona State University have just imaged an “exceptionally distant galaxy, ranked among the top 10 most distant objects currently known in space.” The galaxy in question, LAEJ095950.99+021219.1, is about 800 million light years away from us.

Chile’s clear skies are great for volcanological research, too! The lack of pollution or haze of any kind means that our remote sensing instruments (spectrometer scanners, cameras, and sun photometers), which look through lots of the atmosphere, gather very robust data with little noise.

More than just the science, though, Chile’s clear skies offer a simply stunning vista. Here are a few of my favorite images taken on The Volcanofiles’s 2012 Chile Expedition showing off the sky at sunset and the stars at night.

Setting sun in Chile, near Lascar volcano (click to embiggen)

The night sky above Lascar volcano (click to embiggen)

Antofagasta – leaving for Láscar

After a few days’ travel north, we are in the town of Antofagasta preparing to drive into the Atacama desert towards Lascar. The region has some impressive geology – and there is hardly any vegetation to obscure outcrops – so here are some of the views from the Pan-American highway as we drove north yesterday.

We aren’t sure yet of how close we can get to Láscar – it will depend on driving conditions and the latest updates from Sernageomin – but are looking forward to seeing the volcano and finding out what we can measure!

Viaje al Norte — Lascar here we come

We’ve stopped in the town of Talca for a few hours sleep in a bed last night as we head back north. Kelby is scheduled to depart from Santiago in two days’ time, and the remaining four Volcanofiles will then make our way north to Lascar and the Altiplano.

Lascar was recently put on high alert status (see our previous post) due to the clusters of earthquakes (up to 300 in one day) centered around the volcanic edifice. If we can gain access, we hope to get some good information about Lascar’s plume just before it erupts (unless, of course, it goes off while we are there!)

The drive to the north is a long one, so we won’t be at the volcano for another several days to a week from now. Keep an eye on Lascar by watching SERNAGEOMIN’s webcam:

Lascar volcano, Chile on alert status

The Chilean geological service SERNAGEOMIN and Chilean emergency management ONEMI have placed Lascar volcano on heightened alert status. Over 300 small earthquakes at the volcano have occurred in the last day or so, and evacuation may become necessary for the small towns and mining operations in proximity to the volcano.

Lascar is one of the three main volcanoes The Volcanofiles will be visiting on our journey to Chile, which begins this February and will go through early March. Our current itinerary has us starting work on Lascar on February 27th for six days, but we’ll see how things shape up once we’re there. Check out this amazing photo of Lascar from an eruption in 2006.

Keep an eye out with Lascar’s webcam
If you’re as anxious as we are to see what Lascar will do now that it is on alert status, keep an eye on the volcano by checking in on the webcam pointed right at it, courtesy of SERNAGEOMIN:

Some history
Lascar is the most active volcano of the Chilean Andes. The andesitic-to-dacitic stratovolcano is composed of six overlapping craters. The biggest eruption ever at Lascar was about 26,500 years ago. The largest historical eruption occurred in 1993 when ash fall reached as far as Buenos Aires.

Lascar eruption in 1993

Lots of action in Chile these days…
Another smaller volcano, Callaqui, has had some possible ashy eruptions recently. One pilot reported seeing an “ash cloud” over the volcano. It’s on our way when we are driving between volcano sites in Chile, so we may stop to have a peak, time permitting.