The Swedish Solar Telescope

Two of the fourteen telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos observatory are solar telescopes — highly specialised to observe our own sun. This is the Swedish Solar Telescope, which was one of the first telescopes built on the Roque. It’s currently the best solar telescope in the world since they added the new adaptive optics in 2005. (Adaptive optics compensate for air turbulence.) It can resolve details of the…

July 26, 2011

STARMUS on La Palma

STARMUS is a unique scientific, artistic and musical event taking place mostly in Tenerife this week, with a truly stellar line-up of speakers and performers. I wanted to go, but I couldn’t afford the time or the money. I say “mostly in Tenerife” because on Thursday Jack Szostak, Brian May, Richard Dawkins, Kip Thorne, George Smoot, Jill Tarter, Alexei Leonov and Neil Armstrong are coming to the Roque de los…

June 22, 2011

Blood red moon over La Palma

Last night, La Palma saw a total eclipse of the moon. Well, a large part of planet Earth saw it, of course, but since La Palma has beautiful dark skies, we saw it better than most places. In fact La Palma has a set of viewpoints upgraded for astronomy. In practice, this means parking space, level ground suitable for tripods, a signpost pointing to the pole star, and an information…

June 16, 2011

G Astronomy in La Palma

The Parador on La Palma is just outside the village of San Jose, in Breña Baja. (Paradors are a national chain of posh hotels, and very nice they are too.) Tonight (April 22nd ) at 8 pm they’ll be hosting the first public dinner with a new menu, inspired by astronomical bodies. A professional Starlight guide will be there to talk about the planets, and afterwards, there will be stargazing….

April 22, 2011

Star Party in Santa Cruz de la Palma

The castle on the hill above Santa Cruz (to the north) gets its name from the five-yearly festival where they bring the statue of the Virgin Mary down from Las Nieves into Santa Cruz. It’s not much used in between fiestas, but Wednesday 20th April is The World Night in Defence of Starlight, and Astrotour will be holding a Star Party there from 9 pm to 1 am. You’ll be…

April 19, 2011

Visiting the Observatory at the Roque de los Muchachos, 2010

La Palma is home to one of the three most important astronomical observatories in the world. (The other two are Hawaii and the Atacama desert in Chile.) The observatory sits at the top of the island, at the Roque de los Muchachos. It’s a fascinating place to visit, but it’s not normally open to tourists – they’re too busy doing science. However, the IAC who run the site are organising…

June 17, 2010