Green UFO identified!

It looks like we have been able to identify what this was with help from Tenerife 4 All facebook group member Linda Munn who noted that there had been a NASA launch from Florida on Saturday evening. It appears the launch included a satellite deployment system called an ESPA which looks very like what my guest Martin saw through the binoculars. Timings and launch trajectory appear to stack up too it’s just the green glow that remains unanswered. A very cool sighting for sure!…/ula-atlas-v-afspc-11…/

Planets, Galaxies, Clusters, Nebulae, Milky Way and Meteors plus a UFO?!

A cracking night in Tenerife last night with guest Martin under the stillest skies I’ve seen. The cloud bands of Jupiter were clear and steady and the Great Red Spot was easy to see and well defined. We could see Io as a spherical moon on the limb of Jupiter as it began its transit and also its shadow although Jupiter was so bright we really could have done with a filter. Omega Centauri was amazing, with individual stars resolved and we could see the dust band across galaxy Centaurus A. Galaxies M81, M82 and Sombrero were bright and we saw the Lagoon and Swan nebulae. Surface markings were just visible on Mars too and of course Saturn was a wow. Add in the Milky Way and 20+ meteors and it was an excellent night. And there is the mystery of the unidentified glowing green object that crossed the sky in the early hours. It wasn’t a plane or a meteor and was completely silent. I’ve no idea what it was but it was an object, it was flying and it is unidentified………..

Picture is of the Milky Way rising over Izana Observatory on Sunday morning. As usual I try to keep my pictures near to what the camera catches  with no artificial painting of effects or unnatural boosting of colours or brightness.

Late night

Some of the very best sights at the moment aren’t available until after midnight. Dark Skies Tenerife are happy to take you up the mountain at any time to ensure you get the very best experience you can. Just one of the benefits of booking with us.

Phil Plait tells us about the Little Dipper

We live in an interesting time. Astronomically speaking, I mean. It just so happens that right now, if you draw a line from Earth’s south pole, through the Earth’s center, up through the north pole, and extend it up into the sky, it points very close to a fair-to-middlin’ bright star. 1,000 more words

via Take a little dip in the Little Dipper — Syfy – Bad Astronomy

A recent guest review

“We thought the trip was amazing and it was incredible to see the skies with such an experienced guide. You really kept the kids entertained and they loved hearing all about the stars and planets. I don’t think we can think of anything that could be done better or added – you really looked after us so well and thought of every little thing.

Thanks a million for the photos and we will definitely spread the word if we know of anyone else coming to Tenerife!”

Liza K and family March 2018

In a galaxy far, far away…………….

The Moon was pretty bright last night being 71% of full but the conditions in Las Canadas were great. With only a mild wind, the temperature stayed in double digits and the seeing was more than reasonable. All of the main constellations were there and the Orion Nebula remained visible to the naked eye despite the Moon directly overhead. The clear air meant we had a crisp view of the Moon’s surface even at 250x magnification when it felt like we were actually inside one of the craters.

Having looked at something only 384,000 km away we then looked at a pair of galaxies that are 12 million light years away and even with the Moon, were clear and bright in the eyepiece of our large telescope. Looking at something that is outside of own galaxy and so far away is amazing enough but when you realise that it took the light 12 million years to reach your eye it becomes a real wow moment. Astronomy is not only a science but a form of time travel, allowing us to look back in time and one day we may be able to look far enough back to see the very creation of the Universe!


Galaxies M81 and M82 12 million light years away








Sir Isaac Newton gets a worthy companion

Stephen Hawking’s ashes to be interred alongside Sir Isaac Newton. Newton was a colossus in science who may never be surpassed by another Englishman but Hawking comes very close and time may well prove him an equal, as much for his accessibility and ease of communicating extremely complicated subjects to the general public as his theoretical brilliance. Both will certainly live on in history as brilliant minds.


Super sunset

Last night served up an especially gorgeous sunset for us, something Tenerife is very good at!

Some of the cool objects we’ve been taking pictures of recently

Galaxy M65


Blackeye Galaxy M64


Needle Galaxy NGC4565
Great Hercules Cluster M13
Hamburger Galaxy NGC3628

Lord of the rings wows again

This morning’s stargazing session at the Parador with the large telescope was cold and windy but provided us with great views of some awesome objects.

Jupiter was in the constellation of Libra and close up views not only showed its moons clearly but also its two major cloud bands – the northern and southern equatorial belts.

Mars is growing brighter by the day and was a lovely sight. Although it was windy and the image in the eyepiece was a bit wobbly, dark surface markings could just be made out. It will continue to grow in brightness for a few months yet as it climbs higher in the night sky.

The Ring nebula in Lyra is always fun to spot and the Great Cluster in Hercules looked amazing close up, revealing countless stars. It is always a top target for stargazers to view in binoculars or a telescope but it was completely outdone when Omega Centauri rose over the Caldera. It is so large and so bright, we could make it out with the naked eye and didn’t need the full power of the zoom eyepiece for it to fill the field of view. A real stunner and not one you get to see often. As one of our guests remarked, it was like looking at the Sun through thick clouds.

However, even it was overshadowed by the real wow of the night – Saturn, which rose behind Mars and was a lovely lemon colour in contrast to the bright red/orange of its companion. Its rings were sharply defined in the eyepiece with the Cassini division apparent and Titan, its large moon shone brightly. As our two French guests both remarked when looking at  it for the first time; “incroyable!” – unbelievable!

A glorious night

Last night provided one of the best sunsets above the “mar de nubes” we’ve seen in a while, followed by a stunning view of a sliver of a crescent Moon together with Venus and Mercury. Wow!!


Stargazing with binoculars

It was a lovely clear night last night and I spent a couple of hours with the binoculars hunting down some of the many globular clusters on show. Globular clusters are round balls of stars numbering in the hundreds of thousands to 10 millions and there are lots of them to see. In binoculars, they look like ghostly snow balls and it takes a telescope to resolve the detail and colours of the densely packed stars but in good binoculars they are impressive all the same. They are all different, some are brighter than others like The Great Cluster in Hercules (M13) or larger such as the spectacular Omega Centauri, the largest glob in the Milky Way which can’t be observed from the UK. Likewise down below it the bright star Gacrux, the head of the constellation the Southern Cross was just appearing over the southern horizon. Gacrux is the closest giant red star to us at around 88 light years. Two excellent observations. Mighty Jupiter was up and shining brightly, its four Galilean moons like a string of shining pearls. Everywhere I looked there was something interesting to study and the time flew by. Sometimes I am so busy working with my cameras and telescopes that I forget to just look up. Last night reminded me to do it more often.

Omega Centauri credit: ESO.

Stephen Hawking RIP

So sad to learn of the death of Stephen Hawking. A true visionary and one of a small number of real geniuses. Coincidentally I just watched the film of his life last night, he wasn’t expected to live past 30 but made it to 76 and we are grateful for that. RIP.

What a shiner!

Messier 64 otherwise known as the Black Eye galaxy (sometimes known as the Evil Eye galaxy) is high in our skies at the moment and a favourite target. It lies within the constellation Coma Berenices, some 24 million light years away. The black part of the galaxy is caused by thick lanes of dust partly obscuring the bright core. I grabbed this very quick image the other night at sea-level, it is less than 2 minutes’ worth of exposures showing just how bright a target this is from here.

The belt of Venus

The pinkish glow along the Eastern horizon in this pic I took earlier this evening is  known as the belt of Venus. This Sky and Telescope article explains the phenomenon further.

Update on crashing Chinese spacecraft

Tiangong-1 is coming down but no one knows quite when or quite where. Might you get to see it as it burns up on re-entry? Full EarthSky story here.



The Ghost of Jupiter!

Saw this small, planetary nebula last night from our balcony whilst tuning the 200p Newtonian so grabbed a quick image. It’s the first time I’ve actually seen this and I am impressed, the colour is very strong and unusually green/blue. I will have a proper go at this another time.


NGC 3242
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Designations: Ghost of Jupiter, Jupiter’s Ghost, Eye Nebula, Caldwell 59

NGC 3242, commonly known as the Ghost of Jupiter, is a planetary nebula located in the constellation Hydra.
William Herschel discovered the nebula on February 7, 1785, and cataloged it as H IV.27.
This planetary nebula is most frequently called the Ghost of Jupiter, or Jupiter’s Ghost due to its similar size to the planet, but it is also sometimes referred to as the Eye Nebula.The nebula measures around two light years long from end to end, and contains a central white dwarf with an apparent magnitude of eleven. The inner layers of the nebula were formed some 1,500 years ago. The two ends of the nebula are marked by FLIERs, lobes of fast moving gas often tinted red in false-color pictures. NGC 3242 can easily be observed with amateur telescopes, and appears bluish-green to most observers. Larger telescopes can distinguish the outer halo as well.

NASA’s latest exoplanet-hunter

NASA’s newest exoplanet hunter, called TESS, is due to launch 16th April 2018. It has a field of view 400 times larger than the Kepler telescope. Full article here


Focuser upgrade

Today I did some work on our venerable but superb Skywatcher 200ps Newtonian telescope, adding a motorised focus control unit to make it easier to get a really good focus. I took the opportunity to attach the Canon 1100D DSLR to the focuser with a t2 spacer and tested it to make sure we had enough back focus for it. It’s all ready for imaging now. Happy stargazing!

HEQ5 Hypertune power up

So, we picked up the astro gear today from our lock up and powered up the HEQ5 Pro to see what it’s like since it had its Hypertune. It was very smooth and very quiet. Both axes are tight with no slop even when fully loaded and settling time is a few short seconds. Dark Frame Optics recommend these mounts are run at 13.8v for optimal performance so I made a voltage booster to be able to run it from a 12v source. It’s working nicely. I will get a first look at its tracking performance tonight but so far so very good!