A night with a star shower at Pic du Midi de Bigore

The waiting list is mandatory, they usually have their tickets for two years. It is not very heavy on the scale of the universe. But the Observatory makes great promises. Observing the stars in a way that you have never seen before in association with the Pyrenees and its steep flanges.

“I like to define myself as a star-shower,” Philip introduced Noak in his proud voice. Kangaroo hunter hat on head …

The waiting list is mandatory, they usually have their tickets for two years. It is not very heavy on the scale of the universe. But the Observatory makes great promises. Observing the stars in a way that you have never seen before as an ally of the Pyrenees and its steep sides.

“I like to define myself as a star-shower,” Philip introduced Noak in his proud voice. A kangaroo hunter hat on his head and a pipe on his face, he will lead our team. Visitors who come mostly from a large part of southwestern France. “It’s better to take on the appearance of a senator”, advises the guide to avoid strokes related to lack of oxygen.

“Small, but comfortable”

At the end of the arrival briefing, everyone goes back to their respective quarters. Often the old rooms of scientists. “It’s a small, but comfortable, summary of Nadia, from Albie (Turn). With toilets and showers in the hallway. On the other hand, we have a scene … I thought there was a screen. Then I went back to the room and asked my husband: What have you done? In fact, the clouds were gone. “Introduced to the other guests of the stay, who will subtract the sunset from us.

“We know nothing about astronomy,” admits Alice, who came from Girond with her husband Julian. Like many, the latter have found a place to stay as gifts. It costs more than 500 euros for two.

“Anything scientific is a little complicated,” Nadia considers. But the smaller the touch, the better. The Albigensian has already reached the summit twice, but he is preparing to spend his first night there.


An observation under the Charvin Dome at Peak du Midi de Bigore.

David Le Diodic / Southwest

Pic du Midi de Bigorre ends at 2,877 meters.


Pic du Midi de Bigorre ends at 2,877 meters.

David Le Diodic / Southwest

Pic du Midi de Bigorre attracts about 145,000 visitors throughout the year.


Pic du Midi de Bigorre attracts about 145,000 visitors throughout the year.

David Le Diodic / Southwest

Peak du Midi de Bigore has an exceptional panorama of the chain as well as scientific and historical mediation activities.


Peak du Midi de Bigore has an exceptional panorama of the chain as well as scientific and historical mediation activities.

David Le Diodic / Southwest

Death of Mars

Max Baron is a lucky star. The 80-year-old Beyonc was offered a stay six months ago for her birthday. 2024 as the horizon. “I told them: ‘But I’m already going to die on that date!’ “” The man with the mustache joked. Two days ago he was called to the top with his wife, thanks for withdrawing.

Like his companions, he is heading towards the planet. An old dome has been rehabilitated in a movie on a concave roof. “This is where a picture of Mars was taken in 1910,” Philip Noak recalled. He has traveled the world. Because at that time, we thought we saw canals on the planet. Who says channel, people say to achieve it. Without this image, there is no channel. We can say that Mars died in this house. A

The team became acquainted with the vastness of space. Example: If our galaxy, the Milky Way, was reduced to the size of France (1,000 kilometers in diameter), our solar system would be the size of a tennis ball. Knowing that, according to estimates, there are trillions of galaxies in the universe.

But every theory must be confirmed through observation. This is where the telescope comes in. “With his mirror, he will catch the light. This is the only source of our information,” Philip Noak insisted.

Dark and cold

Around 11:30 pm and our star-shower comes to let us know that the heavenly vault is still blocked. “You are going to your house. See you at the Charvin Dome at 4:30 in the morning, ”Philip Noak announced. The night promises to be short.

And the alarm clock. First reflection: Open the blinds. A few stars stick. Off we go out on the stairs, not necessarily reassured to proceed in the dark and cold above 2,877 meters above sea level. The rule is set: the source of the pollution is a formal ban on the use of white light. The Observatory is an active site, which carries numerous measurements for scientists.

The group gathers in a dome a few meters wide, dimly lit by two red lights. Everyone will keep an eye on the telescope telescope. It has a 400 mm diameter mirror. The mirror of the Bernard Leot telescope – the strongest in the observatory – is two meters long.

Philip Novak pointed the barrel in a very specific direction. “I see Titan and Saturn”, observes a visitor. “I don’t know how you did it,” his wife replied. “You have to develop the image. Without focus, there is no observation, ”Philip Novak recalls.

An observation under the Charvin Dome at Peak du Midi de Bigore.  White light is forbidden.


An observation under the Charvin Dome at Peak du Midi de Bigore. White light is forbidden.

David Le Diodic / Southwest

Sky seen from Peak du Midi from 4:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Sky seen from Peak du Midi from 4:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

David Le Diodic / Southwest

Pic du Midi de Bigorre from 4:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Pic du Midi de Bigorre from 4:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

David Le Diodic / Southwest

Hanging footbridge of Pic du Midi de Bigorre


Hanging footbridge of Pic du Midi de Bigorre

David Le Diodic / Southwest

Visitors enjoy the sunrise.


Visitors enjoy the sunrise.

David Le Diodic / Southwest

Hanging footbridge of Peak du Midi de Bigor at sunrise.


Hanging footbridge of Peak du Midi de Bigor at sunrise.

David Le Diodic / Southwest

Saturn and its rings

Now it’s our turn. A small aura appears, the size of a penny. Turning the dial, then freezing the image, like a revelation. There is Saturn, including its ring. It took eighty minutes for the light to reach our eyes. Its satellite Titan has a point to its right.

The definition is good. This is even more impressive with the observation of Jupiter. We can see the lines on its surface, which significantly form a kind of central belt. For a moment, you will even get the impression of seeing the gases move.

“I worked on Titan”, our Max Baron jumps. The former engineer worked at the National Center for Space Studies (Cnes) in Toulouse. “There was a ‘balloon’ section, which was located in Aire-sur-L’Adoure,” said Octobrian. Scientists there were asking us questions. Tried the penetration shield, which sailed for Titan in 1997.

A maze

The Huygens probe finally reached its destination in 2004. “The goal of the test was to go as high as possible. My record was 43 kilometers, ”Max Barron recalled.

The clouds are gone. And the sunrise distils its magic. The team continues its journey towards the Bernard Leot Telescope. We want to take another detour with the Charvin Dome.

The Observatory is a maze. A security guard is leading us down the sidewalk. The door opens into the basement of that dome, where a bed! Access to the upper floor is through a hatch that opens at the base of the telescope. This is our star-shower bedroom.

See from Breche de Roland, Pick du Midi de Bigo.


See from Breche de Roland, Pick du Midi de Bigo.

David Le Diodic / Southwest

The peak in daylight.


The peak in daylight.

David Le Diodic / Southwest

Scene from Peak du Midi de Bigor: Clouds flirting with peaks


Scene from Peak du Midi de Bigor: Clouds flirting with peaks

David Le Diodic / Southwest

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