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Above the Flats

Date: April 25, 2024 | By: Ashish Sanghrajka | Category: Travel Blog

Connecting the Dots;

Beyond the Bolivian History


Last year, my colleague Gisela went in-depth through Bolivia and loved it. Who wouldn’t? Most people only explore the lake or the salt flats, however as a self-admitted history buff, diving into the history is what drew me in, especially around the 15th and 16th centuries. Yet where I connected the dots, quite literally, was in the astronomy in the Uyuni Salt Flats.


While attending university, I was considered a vector calculus nerd who loved astronomy and the math around tracking planetary movements (including the pinky rule). Now you have to understand studying in Tucson at UofA in those times was all about astronomy and still is today. The world’s largest telescope by diameter which still sits atop a peak in Chile among other places, was built during my freshman year and the honeycomb concept used to build the mirror from polished aluminum was pure genius. Every time I gaze at the celestial skies above the Uyuni, I find myself in front of that telescope, as if I have been teleported into the past, right to my sophomore year when I got to get a view of Jupiter’s moons through one of those huge telescopes. I could not believe the clarity, and it’s almost as if I could see those moons again looking at the sky above those flats.


In one of our team’s images of the night sky above Bolivia, I saw a glimmer of the Martian planet using my old textbooks and equations and a trusted app on planetary movements to verify that it was in fact Mars above Bolivia at that very date and just like that…I jumped into the past in university, talking to a few members of our ultimate frisbee team that worked on the rover that traversed the Martian surface in a joint project with several other prominent universities called the Pathfinder project.  In a single moment, I traveled back in time to elementary school and a voluntary project I did in 3rd grade on the surface of Mars because I dreamed of being an astronaut after seeing my very first shuttle launch on TV that year, what great memories those were.

To this day, Bolivia takes me back to a time when I found my love for astronomy, which is the only subject that rivals my passion for history.


What will it do for you? Enjoy this week’s video.

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