Do the sky and the stars fascinate you? Have you always wanted to observe the Sun, the Moon and the other wonders of the sky? Are you passionate about astronomy and would you like to understand the mysteries of the Universe?
Join us under starry skies in the heart of the mountains to spend nights observing, making illustrations and contributing to a better understanding of our Galaxy.
During this stay, you shall set out on a discovery of the sky, its constellations and stars.
You shall learn to spot the pole star, identify different types of stars, the main winter constellations (Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Orion, the Taurus...) and the mythological stories that accompany them.
You shall handle astronomical instruments and observe celestial bodies that dot our Universe: nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies...You shall learn about exploding stars, novae and supernovae!
Over the course of your stay, you shall be able to observe, make illustrations and analyze the life of stars, planets and other bodies that make up the Universe.
The research project
Milky Way, our galaxy, consists of more than 200 billion stars.
These stars are all different; some of them have only a fraction of the Sun’s mass whereas monsters can have a mass many hundred times than that of our star.
The life of each of these stars is dependent on its mass and the consequences when they die can be terrible.
All that we observe in the Universe is linked to the life of the stars. Earth, Moon and even the atoms that make up living beings were all, one day, created by a star. We are all made up of stardust.
But stars can also pose dangers – a massive solar eruption or an exploding star in the fringe of the solar system could send us back to the Stone Age or worse! It is vital that we get to know and understand stars to be able to anticipate the danger they could pose to humanity.
The brightness of some stars fluctuate over time, these are called variable stars. The fluctuation happens due to various factors – double systems, atmospheric pulsations, cataclysmic eruptions, even, possibly, an exploding star. Some of these fluctuations in brightness are very slight though, because they happen when a planet passes in front of another star!
Many processes that could explain these fluctuations in brightness are as yet unknown, the reason why astrophysicists need to make observations so as to better describe the changes that occur in the star and thus understand the underlying physical mechanisms.
The mountain village of Lenk is located at an altitude of 1 068 m in the Simmental Valley, in the Swiss Alps at the foot of the Wildstrubel massif which shelters The Plaine Morte glacier. With the surrounding mountains reaching altitudes of 3 000 m, the setting is favorable for good snow cover all through winter and a clear view of the sky.
At Rezlialp, below The Plaine Morte glacier, the Simme River originates from several springs gushing out of the rock, called the “Seven Fountains”. These sulphurous thermal springs are famous, known to relieve rheumatism and respiratory illnesses.
The setting is magnificent both in summer and winter. Whether while glancing through the window or on a stroll, the lakes, mountain passes, summits and high altitude grasslands offer breathtaking views.
The Simmental Valley boasts magnificent views and a friendly atmosphere.
In winter, the ski areas around Lenk im Simmental offer a wide selection of 50 ski lifts and 185 km of ski slopes. The Metsch cable car serves the whole of the Adelboden-Lenk ski area, which mainly has easy ski slopes, but those of medium difficulty as well, wide carving slopes, snowboarding parks and a permanent racetrack.
And yes, parents too can ski during the winter stay, that too, more than once!
Given the wide range of activities on offer for families, Lenk has been awarded the “Families Welcome” seal of quality. Visitors can also enjoy the thermal spa in the Lenkerhof Alpine Resort.
Day to day proceedings
Most of the action happens at night. For once, you shall be allowed to stay up till midnight or even later! After long evenings dedicated to observing the sky, you shall, of course, sleep late the next day to recharge your batteries and be ready for the following night.
The activity towards the end of the morning involves preparing for an evening of observation – checking if the weather would be favorable, choosing targets to observe and organizing the activity itself (a map of the sky, order of observations…). We shall engage in other activities in the afternoon and observations shall continue at nightfall.
In the night, we shall discover the Moon and its countless craters. The sky shall open its doors to us, allowing us to observe up close, the constellations and the stars in the sky!
The Sun too shall be the star of this camp. We shall learn to safely observe the Sun using appropriate equipment. We shall discover sunspots that dot its surface and admire the eruptions that occur in its atmosphere!
At the end of the year, Mars and Venus shall be the guests of the evening sky. We shall have the opportunity to admire these planets that capture our imagination.
The winter sky is often considerably better than the summer sky since the atmosphere is far more stable at low temperatures.
The sky viewed from a mountain such as Lenk helps us avoid light pollution present in big cities and offers improved transparency with more beautiful images and memories!
During our group outings as part of the “Skiing and Snowflakes” stay, we shall go up the ski slopes in search of snow crystals and thrills!
On the same dates, in the company of biologists who are part of “Tailing the Lynx” stay, we shall go up the wildlife slope in the Alpes, from chamois to stags, passing ermines and grouse on the way and even… the lynx!
New Year Celebrations
In the stays that happen towards the end of December, we celebrate the New Year, as it ought to be.
At midnight on 31 December, fireworks light up the valley, it is magical. To mark the occasion, we make Swedish lanterns in the snow and other surprises...
Maxime Spano is in charge of the Objectif Sciences International’s scientific program ‘Universe’, under astronomy. An astrophysicist, he started off researching the mysterious dark matter in our galaxies at the Observatory of Marseille before completing his thesis on variable stars at the Geneva Observatory. He has several years of experience in astronomy and astrophysics. A keen observer, he has pursued astronomy with the help of a number of instruments: from a small amateur telescope to professional instruments in the Chilean desert.
Corinne Charbonnel, Associate Professor at the Geneva Observatory, is an expert internationally known for researching into the structure, formation and evolution of stars of small and intermediate masses, stellar and primordial nucleosynthesis, as well as the chemical evolution of star clusters and galaxies.
In Simmental Valley we shall stay at the Kuspo Center. Located 1 km away from the Lenk village, it is close to hiking paths that allow very easy access to the slopes in winter and hiking trails in summer. Since the center is just a few minutes’ walk from the slopes, we can also reduce our carbon footprint. In addition, a regular bus line to the Lenk railway station allows easy access to other services available in the village.
The Kuspo Center consists of three modern chalets that can accommodate up to 450 people. We can use the big rooms provided with bedding and Nordic duvets, intended for 2, 4, 12 or 16 people. Each chalet has large offices and space to successfully carry out our scientific activities and to store our skis.
Meals are served in the dining hall where varied and tasty buffets are on offer. These halls can also be used as living rooms to meet up in the evenings for the exciting activities that are planned. Gyms and sports fields are at your disposal all around the Center. The Center also boasts of a games room and a large sun-facing terrace where you can relax. We would be staying in a warm and friendly environment in the heart of the Swiss culture in this magnificent valley.
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