For those of you who missed the memo, when not gallivanting around the planet my occupation is being a research graduate student in astrophysics. It probably sounds more impressive than it really is, but specifically I work on a project called the Auger Observatory, which looks for ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. These cosmic rays are the most energetic particles in the known universe (you can tell because they’re ultra high-energy!) but we don’t know what they’re made of or where they come from. All we do know is they’re very enigmatic and hard to detect because you only get one hitting a square kilometer of ground in a century, and it’s one of the pressing questions of 21st century astrophysics. (If you want to learn more about this, I was on NPR a few months ago with my adviser discussing all this. Local NPR sure, but that didn’t make it any less fun.)
The reason I mention this is because my two major passions in life, science and travel, are about to intersect. This is because the Auger Observatory is located in Argentina- it’s a bunch of water tanks like the one pictured spaced one kilometer apart, and spread out over 3,000 square kilometers of cattle ranches in the province of Mendoza (just across the Andes from Santiago, Chile, and where the Argentine wine comes from). It’s big. It’s remote. And it’s where our collaboration meeting is next week, so after five years of working on this project I finally get to see it!
The plan is we’re flying down on Thursday and heading to the meeting in the tiny town of Malargue which is a six hour drive south of Mendoza- an adventure in itself by the way, as we fly via Santiago then over the steepest part of the Andes near where the plane crash in Alive happened. (The survivors of the crash spent two months on a glacier and resorted to cannibalism. Yes, I read the book in preparation for this trip, and will be packing some snacks.) Then there’s a week in Malargue at the meeting talking about science-y things, and then I’m sticking around for the week of Thanksgiving to do a little exploring because it would be a shame to travel 10,000 miles to my sixth continent and not see anything, right?
The plan right now is to head first down to Bariloche, the heart of the Argentinian Lake District and where Patagonia begins (pictured above), then fly up to the city of Mendoza proper midweek. If all goes to plan I should be exploring the wineries on Thanksgiving Day- probably no turkey, but surely with much to be thankful for.
Keep an eye on this space- I’m not sure what I’ll see just yet, but you know it will be an adventure.
(Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia for now as I don’t have any of my own yet…)