Our latest stargazing trip

We had lovely conditions on Monday evening with guests Benjamin and Bridget,  a very mild 16c with barely a breath of wind. After a beautiful sunset we watched the stars come out and spotted Mars glowing orange to the south west. There were many satellites whizzing overhead and some flashing space junk too. After looking at the Moon through binoculars we turned our attention to the two largest globular clusters the sky has to offer. First we looked at M13, the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules. The largest of the northern hemisphere clusters, on a less moonlit night you can make this out with the naked eye. Through the binoculars it’s an indistinct smudge of light but through the telescope it’s possible to resolve some of the outer stars and really see that it’s a ball of stars in space. Then we looked at Omega Centauri, the largest globular of them all and despite being a southern hemisphere object, something that is visible from Tenerife at this time of year. In fact, it’s so large that even with a 66% Moon, I could make it out with the naked eye. Omega Centauri contains as many as 10 million stars and through the telescope looks like a huge football of stars. One not to be missed. We then turned the telescope to the Moon and spent time looking at mountains casting shadows over the surface and into craters. We also looked at the general area where Apollo 11 landed 50 years ago this July. Benjamin and Bridget took a great picture of the Moon through the telescope with just a smartphone which is shown here. As Scorpio climbed in the east, Jupiter finally came into view. Through the binoculars we could make out three of the Galilean Moons but in the telescope we could make out all four, plus the horizontal cloud bands and also the Great Red Spot, a great end to a great night.

Our latest trip

Checking out the rings of Saturn with guests Oriana, Alex and Louise in the big scope while Jupiter and the Milky Way look on. Another night of excellent conditions.

Tonight looks good!

We’re up the mountain later for some serious stargazing, astronomy and photography with some guests from the north of the island. It’s cloudy where they are but once we drive up through the mar de nubes this is what awaits!

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Astrophotography Experience

Alex, Sarah and Oliver getting to grips with shooting the Milky Way as it rose over Gran Canaria last night. Conditions were very nice again and the orange light pollution from Gran Canaria makes an interesting colour contrast to the arc of the Milky Way above. There’s also a hint of green air glow too.

Animation of meteors criss- crossing the Milky Way

Eta Aquarids

A nice night on the mountain with guests watching some very impressive and very fast meteors zipping about. Every now and then there was a bright sizzler that left a visible “smoke” trail which is characteristic of this shower. We only managed to catch the odd faint trail on camera, they´re too fast really but one of the guests shot a nice timelapse of the Milky Way rising which we hope to see when it´s been processed and we captured a nice shot of the area around the centre of the Milky Way galaxy. There were lots of other cool things to look at too, clusters, globular clusters, colourful binary stars, nebulae, other galaxies, some as many as 20 million light years away and the impressive planets of Jupiter and Saturn. A late night night but worth it! Clear skies!

Eta Aquarids meteor shower

We’ll be on the mountain tonight with a group of guests eager to see some of these extremely fast meteors that travel at 44 miles per second!

Recently published pictures

Astronomy Now magazine recently published two of our images both of which we took here in Tenerife.

Summer Holidays deal – kids go free!

So while Easter has only just gone, it’s time to start thinking about the Summer holidays and while prices everywhere sky rocket to take advantage of families ours don’t, in fact we are offering all children under the age of 16 go free! Treat your kids to a special experience they’ll never forget and something that will be educational too.

First review for our new Photography Experience

“Our best night in Tenerife.

Our photography experience with Dark Skies was fantastic. From initial contact it was clear that Simon wanted to offer a tour that was exactly what we wanted – asking us questions around the type of photography we wanted to do. He picked us up from our hotel and drove to Tiede to photograph the night sky. Simon was very friendly and knowledgable about astrology and camera techniques. He has clearly met some interesting people and had lots of good stories to tell us on the way up and down the volcano. He let us use his equipment as we had not brought our own on holiday. Afterwards he was very prompt to share the photos we took. Thank you very much for a very memorable evening.” – Tripadvisor

Taking pictures on the mountain
Taking pictures on the mountain

Another good night on the mountain

A good night with guests last night where after a windy but fabulous sunset we travelled to one of the few spots that are sheltered when the wind blows that hard and enjoyed a lovely night under the stars.

The Orion Nebula (Messier 42) was visible to the naked eye, looked great in binoculars and fantastic close up in the telescope with our new high-end eyepiece. You could clearly see the central stars of The Trapezium and details of the gas and dust clouds. We’re getting towards the end of Orion season and Orion was already low in the sky but this stargazing location allows us to see it right down to the horizon and conditions were fair to us with it remaining clear until very low. To the right we were able to see the famous star cluster, The Pleiades or Seven Sisters (Subaru in Japanese) another excellent binocular target and overhead, the Beehive Cluster in Cancer was dazzling. The constellation of Auriga, The Charioteer offered its usual collection of small clusters that are great fun to surf with binoculars and we saw many, very bright satellites, one or two moving very quickly. After a slow start we spotted a few shooting stars maintaining our record of never having had a night without them!

Towards the end of the stargazing, Hercules was rising in the North and we watched the famous globular cluster Messier 13, the largest in the Northern Hemisphere, looking like a glowing football of stars. If you haven’t seen a glob before, they are quite fascinating to look at. Then, what a finale! As we were waiting in the hope of one last shooting star we were rewarded with a super-bright fireball almost directly overhead that we all saw and which lasted around 1.5 to maybe 2 seconds, a long time for a shooting star. This appeared to be quite low in the atmosphere with a very bright and greenish head and a very obvious trail left behind it, almost like a firework would do. We wouldn’t have been surprised to heard the sound of an impact but if this had made it to the earth it most likely fell in the sea, although La Gomera was in its line of direction!

On the way home we were rewarded in seeing the waning Moon rising over the crater walls of Las Canadas and stopped for a closer look with the binoculars. Just spectacular. A little further on and we could just see Jupiter rising on the horizon and stopped once more to look at that in the binoculars too. The giant planet showing clearly as a disc rather than a twinkly star. All in all a very good night of stargazing, bring on the next one! Clear skies everyone!

April full Moon

So while we had a very clear sky, it was very windy with high gusts and the planetary imaging we were hoping to do wasn’t possible. We did get this image of people waiting on the summit of Teide for sunset and a video of the full Moon setting behind. If you play it at HD you’ll be able to make out a couple of tiny climbers making their way up the ridge to where the main group is. You might also notice some torchlights flashing in the dark. It was a very cold one but to watch the Moon setting over El Teide as the sun began to rise was quite breathtaking and I’ll be watching every one I can from now on and judging by the number of people I saw, I’m not the only one impressed by it. While it is the stars that always get the “star” billing, we often forget how quite majestic the Moon can be especially when coupled with El Teide’s incredible landscapes. Clear skies everyone, hope you enjoy the video.

Milky Way movie

We shot this timelapse of the Milky Way as it rose in the east from a spot off the Esperanza road. It’s only accessible with a 4×4 and care but the view is fantastic. The lights of Gran Canaria can be seen in the left half of the frame and the glow to the right is from the Granadilla megaport and industrial area. Watch for the brightly lit cruise ship scooting by from right to left. Click on the image to access the movie.

Milky Way rising

Sunset and full Moon rise special

Our next sunset and full Moon rise special is on Friday 19th April when there will be the opportunity to watch the Sun go down on one side of the island and straight after watch a full Moon rise from the sea on the other side. There’ll be plenty of stars to see too and we’ll have our camera to make sure you get some special pics to take home. There aren’t many places where you can experience this and it is very special. Check out the pics below from the last one we did. More details here.

Milky Way!

We had a great night on the mountain in the early hours to catch the rise of the Milky Way and have many pictures to process when we find time. Here are a couple of quick edits showing just how stunning the Milky Way is from Tenerife’s clear skies. Back up tonight with more guests for some stargazing, no rest for the wicked! Clear skies and keep looking up!

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Another super review!

Charlotte and family, March 2019

“Without a doubt, the highlight of our Tenerife trip – Incredible experience with wonderful hosts!
We decided we wanted to find a stargazing tour which was more bespoke than the group tours after reading reviews about having to spend time picking others up from their hotels. I went onto the Trip Advisor Tenerife forum for recommendations and was told by a couple of people to contact Simon from Dark Skies and I’m so pleased we did!

From first point of contact, Simon was incredibly communicative, informative and friendly. He was on email regularly before going out and told me we could coordinate the tour to anywhere we would like to go but due to his extensive knowledge of the Teide area, he knows the best places to see the sunset and watch the stars – I would highly recommended conversing with him on this.

We were picked up by Simon & Margaret outside our apartment in Puerto De La Cruz and drove through La Orotava into the mountains and up to the peaks of Tenerife overlooking Mount Teide. At the first stop we spent a wonderful time watching the sunset, relaxing with delicious home cooked tapas, cava & red wine whilst overlooking the most spectacular views ever!

Simon is also a great photographer and has his own SLR camera, which meant we were also able to take some high resolution family & landscape photos, which we can now blow up and frame.

I can’t thank them enough for providing us with not only a highly professional service but wonderful whole personal experience. Simon & Margaret were very warm, fun company to have there and Simon’s knowledge is incredible! We also loved all the various facts they both gave us about the Volcano, Stargazing and on Tenerife history too.

Our next stop was to watch the stars at night and look at the moon through the telescope. We were the only people there and it was incredibly atmospheric looking up at the stars. Margaret was a wonderful host and made sure we were warm, provided with deserts and made sure we had plenty of hot drinks & blankets later in the evening.

Their fees are also very reasonable and near the same price as the group coach tours – without all the fuss of picking people up and having the share the telescope with lots of others!

This is a perfect tour for couples, families of all ages and individuals looking for a really special, and more personally tailored, trip to Teide and evening stargazing.”

We will definitely be doing another tour with them when next in Tenerife and look forward to seeing them again!

Zodiacal light, Teide with snow and the Milky Way

On a recent trip up the mountain we were lucky enough to see the ethereal Zodiacal Light reaching up to the Milky Way. Note the snow on Teide too, it was very cold and we were pleased for the blankets and hot drinks. This phenomenon is only visible from the darkest, clearest skies a couple of times of the year.

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Sunset and Super Moon rise report

What a fabulous night! Apart from welcoming back guests Stuart and Marie for their second experience, Tenerife offered up another special night. A stunning drive through Las Canadas during the “golden hour” before sunset showed off the lava formations and colours to their absolute best and every turn of the road brought another breathtaking sight into view. Stuart and Marie know the borders and highlands of Scotland well and we’re from Northumberland which also has some very beautiful and unspoiled landscapes but we all agreed that Las Canadas is something quite special. It’s just so different, so obviously volcanic and rugged and savage looking, yet it displays beautiful colours and majestic rock formations and the scale of it is breathtaking. When you look a little more closely though, there is vegetation thriving almost everywhere and soon the bee keepers will be moving the hives from lower altitudes into the crater to take advantage of the spring flowers that will soon colour the crater floor. Another of Tenerife’s surprises.

Then the sunset was excellent, with Teide dominating the skyline and the Sun sinking into a very busy sea of clouds with the two humps of the island of La Palma in the background looking on and then there were the oddly shaped clouds that amassed alongside Teide, looking like a weird flying pack of alien jellyfish. Plenty to talk about during the cava and a delicious picnic before we drove to a spot that overlooked the east coast and with the lights of the island of Gran Canaria visible in the dusk way below us, the most incredible Moon began to rise. At the beginning it was the colour of a blood orange as just a sliver was visible between the sea and a thin line of cloud but soon it was fully up and so big, bright and orange it looked more like the sunset we’d just witnessed on the other side of the island than the Moon rising. It was breathtakingly impressive and a definite “wow” moment. This was the last so called “super moon” of the year, when the Moon is closer in its orbit to Earth than normal, so it appears a bit larger and a bit brighter. This one certainly did that. As it appears so close the Spring Equinox (and the first to do this for thirty years), it gets the nickname of the “worm Moon” supposedly as earthworms can only start to surface from the ground once winter is over and the ground has thawed. No doubt an ancient name given when people were more connected to nature. As the Moon rose, it began to take shape, albeit malformed due to the clouds and thermals of the atmosphere low to the horizon and the features of the Moon were apparent in sharp contrast.

Whilst we also gazed at the constellations, the fabulous Orion Nebula and The Pleiades through binoculars and telescope, saw a meteor and some satellites, the star of the show was undoubtedly the Moon. Once fully risen and steady in the sky, we zoomed in on it with the telescope (using a very strong polarising filter to avoid risk of eye damage) and saw craters close up and in high relief but nothing surpassed those minutes watching the Moon rise up from the sea. I’ve seen the Moon rise many times and if I never see it again, I don’t care because I’m happy to have seen this one and won’t ever forget it.

 

Stunning new locations for stargazing

I spent an enjoyable day yesterday on the mountain hunting out new spots for stargazing with our guests. Found three absolute crackers with wonderful scenery and best of all they are well away from the main roads, headlights and places where the other tour companies go. Off-road locations aren’t sign posted and are generally only accessible with a 4×4 with good ground clearance. They’re often not for the faint hearted but the reward when you find one is usually spectacular. Super-thrilled to have found these and can’t wait to take some guests there. Check out this amazing backdrop to one of the spots.

We love taking people stargazing and we love that they love it too!

March 2019 – had a fantastic tour experience with Dark Skies Tenerife. From word go they were professional and responsive to my pre-holiday emails. I wanted to find a private tour that would be flexible with my timings as we have young children. Simon and Margaret were so helpful in accommodating my requests. The trip itself was amazing. We stopped at a lovely viewpoint with Teide and other volcanos to enjoy a wonderfully prepared tapas picnic with cava whilst watching the sunset. When ready we continued on up the mountain to a high remote spot for our stargazing experience. Here we were treated to some knowledgeable insight into the sky above us. Simon used his laser pointer to describe the various constellations and nebulas and we also benefited from being able to get close up views with an incredibly powerful telescope. The commentary and insight provided us with a really good understanding of the night sky and was exteremely enjoyable. Simon was knowledgable and entertaining and the hours zipped by. I would highly recommend this tour. Particularly good if you don’t want to be bothered with driving round lots of hotels for pick ups and want a tour that is both informative and entertaining. Thank you Simon and Margaret. Liz