Earthquake near GJW-CL

Date: 12/10/2015

On Wednesday 16 September, an 8.4-magnitude earthquake hit Chile. Its epicentre was just over 40 miles away from our observatory there, GJW-CL. As the earthquake began to crescendo, the telescope rocked rapidly from side to side, and the school jerked up and down - breaking some windows and cracking walls - again with startling rapidity. The earthquake continued for a number of minutes, and damage was sustained to some peripheral equipment in the observatory. Remarkably the telescope and its mount survived, although unsurprisingly the polar alignment is rather out! This will be remedied when the aftershocks cease. We were able to get back on sky 25 hours later, and the spectrum shown in the picture below is the very first spectrum taken following the earthquake. The guiding worked remarkably well while collecting the light for this spectrum, despite three aftershocks during the exposure. It is rather harder than normal to see the details of this spectrum because of damage suffered by the computer monitor as the extreme seismic activity flung it off the computer desk onto the floor of the dome. We are always delighted to see new spectra on our various targets, but never more so than this one following this earthquake. We are very thankful that the telescope survived, and even more thankful that nobody in the school suffered injury.