Tenerife skies


credit: Stellarium

I still can’t get used to how different the night sky looks from Tenerife. At 28 degreees north of the equator, everything in the southern sky is higher than it would be back in the UK. Conversely, everything in the northern sky is lower than I’m used to and particularly in the case of Polaris, this looks quite odd. Indeed, Polaris is so low that it is easily obscured if you’re not in the open, often making polar alignment a challenge. The southern sky is a huge bonus though with more objects visible at decent elevations than at home including the galactic core which rises high in the sky. My favourite object that I don’t get to see at home is the constellation Scorpius, with its curved tail and bright red star, Antares at the head. It’s very prominent here and one of the few constellations that to me at least, actually looks like its namesake.

Given the clarity of the air here and low (although inescapable) light pollution, objects are visible and steady down to the horizon. The famous sea of clouds helps here by trapping pollutants and thermals at lower altitudes and diminishing the effect of the bright coastal resort lights. The stars don’t dance anything like they do at home and it’s great to see the great star Sirius, still and steady.

The sheer number of stars that are visible overhead makes it difficult to recognise my usual landmarks in the sky for the first couple of nights. The bright stars of the major constellations are lost in the brightness of the myriad stars on show and I need to work hard to orientate myself. There are so many more constellations to see too and one or two southern hemisphere targets can be glimpsed such as the fabulous Omega Centauri globular cluster and the Southern Cross constellation.

Being further south, the ecliptic is higher in the sky and therefore so are the planetary bodies of our solar system. Jupiter, Saturn and especially Mars, which is especially close to Earth this year, will present well and I’m planning on doing a lot of planetary imaging throughout the year.

Clear skies and happy stargazing everyone!

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