MODEST15 in Concepción

One of my favorite conference series is “Modeling and Observing Dense Stellar Systems” (MODEST). This year, MODEST15 took me to Concepción in the beautiful south of Chile. Flying into Santiago over the Andes is already a spectacle.

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But once landed in the south, the beauty of the landscape is breathtaking, and a few hours drive brings you to the most amazing places in the Andes, full of outdoor activities and gorgeous views. 

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With astronomer Florent Renaud, I flew in a few days before the conference to enjoy the late summer of Chile and explore the area around the majestic Villarrica volcano.

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The Villarrica lies in the Araucanía Region of Chile, famous for its thick forests of araucaria trees and its volcanic activity – in fact, Florent and I missed the first eruption of the volcano in thirty years by only two days!

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Even though we were not allowed to climb the volcano (yellow alert!), the trip was very enjoyable, which may be due to the termas geometricas that are fed by volcanic hot springs.

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But there’s so much more to do than just boiling in 45 degree Celsius hot water. Staying in the touristy town of Pucón offers countless opportunities, of which the best may be the day trips to the national parks in the area.

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The trip would have already been worth it just for the hikes with their serious elevation gains and rewarding views (both very breathtaking).

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But there’s just so much more to do! Bazillions of waterfalls and mountain lakes with gorgeous beaches make Pucón one of the most popular travel spots in Chile.

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After all this outdoor fun, the conference at the Universidad de Concepción was very enjoyable. The theory group at the astronomy department in Conce has organized a great meeting with a very interesting scientific program – which was even featured on Chilean television.

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This week of being back in Chile and seeing all my friends and colleagues again made me realize how long I’ve been in the US for already! It’s so valuable for me to keep the connections to this amazing community alive, since it is so completely underrepresented in the US. To foster our relationship and increase our visibility, the East Coast MODEST’lers Nathan Leigh, Steve McMillan and I agreed on having a dense stellar system get-together in New York City every now and so often. We are even considering to have a big MODEST meeting at the Museum of Natural History again next year – the place where the MODEST series was born in 2001!

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