Ratatouille Mission (2007-10-06 a 2007-10-13)


Astroqueyras Association Observatory, Pic du Chateau Renard (3000m)



“ Ratatouille is an 18th century recipe and may be served hot or cold, alone or as a garnish." (Wikipedia)

“RAT (Ribeiro Alves Thizy) atouille”


Our mission began at St. Veran, the highest village in Europe. For the portuguese it took 1900 km driving. Waiting for us was Olivier Thizy and a magnificent Tartiflete, a local dish made of cheese and potatoes.



The 900m climbing up to the observatory at the Pic du Chateau Renard was done through a tortuous track craved in the mountain. The only difficulty occurred by the shepherd's house, obliging us to assemble snow currents to overcome the slant.



The track as seen from above:



When we arrived to the observatory we had a warm reception from the astronomers of the previous mission. They explained us all the procedures in order to maintain the systems of the station in good work.



 A thunderstorm threat forced us to the procedure of disconnecting all electric cables. Hopefully it was false alarm. A thunderstorm in a place like this, at 3000m high, is always dangerous. 


Monte Viso, Italy, as seen from near the observatory


The day after, with the departure of our colleagues from the previous mission, we stayed by our own. In the afternoon the Dutch freelancer reporter Jan Lameer , specialist in time-lapse images of aurora, joined us.



Mission objectives


There were several objectives for this mission. For the portuguese, one of the objectives was to learn managing the telescopes and the station support systems, aiming future missions. This objective was perfectly accomplished thanks to Olivier, an expert on the place..

On astronomy, our objectives were:

-Low-resolution spectra  (300 l/mm) in planetary nebula for comparative study, at the T62.


-Low-resolution spectra of the exoplanet  HD189733-b during the transit and out of it, for comparative study.

-High-resolution spectra (1200 l/mm) of the  Wolt-Rayet star WR140, a commitment with the german group from which our friend  Ernst Pollmann is a member.

-High-resolution spectra of the emission lines Hα, O[III] and S[II] in several zones of M1, aiming the determination of the respective radial velocity in each zone, in order to make the map of the nebula.

-High-resolution spectra (2400 l/mm) of Be stars, some of them CoRoT targets and collaborations with Koubsky and Neiner.

-High-resolution spectra of HD189733-b during its approach and receding, aiming a comparative study.

-Experiences on Doppler Tomography.

-Flat-field images of deep-sky objects with Filipe's ASA telescope.

-Flat-field images of deep-sky objects with the camera  FCC 4.0/760 of Lichtenckeker.

-Wide-field images with the ST10 camera and 50mm objective.







Obviously, with so many objectives, some stayed behind. From the expected seven nights only four were used due to meteorology. And during one of these nights a stretch on the camera cable forced us to an entire recalibration of the spectroscope, loosing us the opportunity to study the HD 189733-b exoplanet.

Due to lack of time it wasn't possible to use the diffraction grating of 1200 l/mm and so WR140 stayed for future observation.

The mapping of M1 was considered impossible due to the great dimension of this supernova remnant relative to our detector field.

The night dedicated to the Doppler Tomography experiment on 75 Peg covered after the first spectra of this star.

Due to technical problems, the ASA couldn't be used.

Filipe had the additional work of polar align the Titan mount of the second dome, using the Gemini's PAC function.


Some of the nightly routines, at the control room and at the dome of the T62



At the middle of the nights we had always great dinners, even the typical portuguese dish "bacalhau" and red wine from Alentejo

From left to right.: Olivier Thizy, Filipe Alves, Jose Ribeiro, Jan Lameer


The results achieved were then:

-Low-resolution spectra at the blue zone of the planetary nebula Blinky, Blue Snowball and  Saturn.


-Be stars (20): 13 Tau, 17 Tau, 23 Tau, BU Tau, eta Tau, 16 Peg, 31Peg, ups Sgr, 60 Cyg, HD22780, HD171219, Hd175869, HD181231, ome Ori, tet Ari, 12 Aur, bet CMi, DU Eri, lam Eri, e omi And.(see Be stars)

-Spectroscopic variable bet Aur, 9 captures.

-Time-lapse of the comet Loneos, captured at the second dome, published at Spaceweather, days 13, 14 and 15 October 2007.

-Capture of the solar blue-ray, published at Spaceweather on 16th October 2007 (Jan Lameer). All sunrises gave us this beautiful spectacle.

-Three wide-field LRGB images from Cygnus, Cepheus and Orion, with the ST10 camera and aan 50mm objective.



-Four LRGB images of Barnard 30,  NGC 891,  IC410 and M78, with the flat-field camera controlled by Filipe.




About the station


The station is ready for the practice of all areas in astronomy, from the leisure ones to the scientific. The inhabitability conditions are acceptable for this inhospitable but beautiful zone.

Some improvements nevertheless would be welcome (my own opinion)


-Improve the backlash in declination.

-Motorize the rotation of the dome. The crank make us feel like a forced labour at roman galleys:

-The switch for opening the dome (shouldn't be pressed permanently).

-Assemble a camera in a finder in order to aim the telescope from the control room.

-Improve the GoTo model.

-Autoguiding of T62, not possible today.

-The mount's control software should allow slower manual guiding speeds.

-The manual guiding should move the telescope only by clicking the mouse, immediately stopping after loosing the mouse button.

2nd dome:

-Motorize the rotation of the dome.

-Thermal isolation of the metallic floor at the astronomer's place because cold becomes unsupportable.

Transportation up to the station:

An agreement could be done with St. Veran's population in order to be guaranteed transportation up to the station. In winter, an agreement with an helicopter service could be available.


Venus at the closing of the dome



The beauty of the place by itself justifies the 2000km journey from Lisbon to the T62 observatory of Astroqueyras Association. If one joins to this a high quality sky with only small traces of light pollution, at 3000m high, and two domes with quality telescopes, then one have all the ingredients for a week as few in one's life as amateur astronomer.



 Panorama of the Alps (360º) as seen from the Pic du Chateau Renard


 A nice, seasoned and aromatic astronomical ratatouille.


<back>    <home>