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.
Weather permitting we’ll be heading to Tenerife tomorrow for the start of our Astro Season. First on the agenda is to collect our new 4×4 and equip it for luxury trips into the Teide National Park in time for our first guests of the season later this month. We’re so excited to be able to be able to get off the normal tourist roads to some new and exciting locations. This year promises some excellent stargazing nights; Jupiter, Saturn and Mars especially will put on a show and most of the major meteor showers are unaffected by the Moon and as always the majestic Milky Way will be high in the sky throughout. Happy stargazing and clear skies!
Our HEQ5 Pro mount has been in for maintenance and has been professionally Hypertuned to give accurate unguided sub-arcsecond tracking of up to 10 minutes at a focal length of 500mm. Guided tracking will be even more impressive with exposures of beyond 30 minutes possible!
We’re looking forward to seeing what it can do, why not book an imaging trip with us and try it out for yourself?
We’re now into the time of year when the centre of the Milky Way, the Galactic Core is visible. You can catch it before dawn in the southern sky and each night it will rise earlier until it’s high in the sky just after sunset in the summer. Choose a moon-less night and get away from bright lights of the coast to enjoy this at its best.
Majestic Jupiter, king of the planets reaches opposition on the night of the 8th May this year and will be at its closest to Earth on May 10th. We’ll be running Jupiter watch sessions with our big telescopes throughout May which also sees a number of moon transits like the one pictured when you can watch one of the Galilean moons and its shadow cross the face of Jupiter. Saturn and Mars are also up making this a great month for planetary observations and imaging!
2018 sees a number of excellent imaging opportunities for the planets, particularly Mars which is at a very close opposition this year. Deep sky targets are always on hand with the clear skies here making imaging them so much easier and it will be a very good year for the main meteor showers. Why not treat yourself to a serious Astro imaging break here and get yourself a year’s worth of data to process back in the cloudy UK?
Mars will be at its closest this summer since way back in 2003 and will be brighter in the sky than the mighty Jupiter. Make the most of this great opportunity to see and image this enigmatic planet on our exclusive tour.
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