I wanted to tell you about an exciting astronomy tour of southern France that I will be leading next summer, from July 2 to 9, 2016. The astronomical highlight will be a trip to the Pic Du Midi Observatory (part of the Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees) in the Pyrenees Mountains (near the border with Spain). The site is famous for its history and its modern research. For example, photos taken from the observatory in 1909 discredited the “Martian canals” theory advocated by Percival Lowell and other astronomers. The small Saturn moon Helene was discovered at Pic Du Midi in 1980. And currently the observatory is home to at least four operating telescopes, the largest being the 2-meter Bernard Lyot Telescope. A 60-centimeter telescope is frequently used by amateur astronomers.
The tour is being operated by Melita Wade Thorpe, a friend of mine for more than a decade. I have conducted tours with Melita to Iceland and Chile, and in all of her tours we stayed at excellent hotels, dined in fabulous restaurants, and made wonderful use of our time.
Besides the observatory, we will be visiting the beautiful city of Toulouse and visiting historical castles, cathedrals, canals, and museums. I will be giving at least one astronomy lecture, and we will stargaze on nights of clear weather. And of course, we will be meeting interesting new people and establishing friendships that will last a lifetime.
Former Editor in Chief of Sky & Telescope
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Whether it is Lhasa, Tibet, the colossi of Ramses in Nubia, Egypt or searching for fossils in the mountains of Morocco the level of service, organization and accommodations have been flawless. Along with viewing the aurora near the arctic circle or the priceless nexus of seeing the "black hole in the sky" it is an entryway into new worlds and cultures with other people who love astronomy and come from all walks of life. It is not just a total eclipse experience, but a TOTAL experience.