After the recent Calima the night sky has returned in all of its glory and we’ve had two very good nights on the mountain imaging the Mily Way with guests. The sky quality, particularly last night was exceptional. Up there again tonight for more of the same. Clear skies!
Thank you Astronomy Now magazine for featuring our recent Moon shot! Chuffed!
The possibility of a devastating asteroid strike is now recognised to be a real danger to us all. In 2013 a near earth asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk in Russia, damaging buildings and injuring thousands of people. The asteroid was only 20 metres in diameter but exploded with a force 26 to 33 times as much as that released from the atomic bomb detonated at Hiroshima. Most of this energy was absorbed by the atmosphere and had the asteroid reached the ground before it exploded, the damage and injuries would have been significantly greater. This asteroid arrived without warning.
Scientists, astronauts and celebrities are coming together to raise the profile of the danger of a future asteroid strike and to call on world governments to take action now to prepare a defence. The first part of this defence pan is to identify and measure the positions and orbits of all near Earth objects so that future threats can be identified.
Dark Skies Tenerife supports this and we will be answering the call by contributing our time and equipment freely to the search for these near earth objects. This is an area where amateur astronomers can make an important contribution to protecting our planet and Tenerife’s clear skies makes it an ideal place to do this work. If you’re interested in getting involved, sign up to asteroid day or get in touch.
Next week on June 21st is the summer solstice and this is especially special on Tenerife at the pyramids of guimar. It’s a very popular event so book early if you want to experience this. More details here:
27th July will see a full lunar eclipse which will be visible from Tenerife. See here for full details: https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/@9845527
The Perseid meteor shower, one of the brighter meteor showers of the year, occurs every year between July 17 and August 24. The shower tends to peak around August 9-13 with 50-60 meteors per hour and bright fireballs are common. The Moon is new this year so the shower will be an extra special one. We are already taking bookings for this popular time so book early to avoid being disappointed!
We’re now moving into the time of the year when we can combine both sunset and the best of the Milky Way in a single trip. Temperatures on the mountain are slowly creeping up; the beekeepers have been moving their hives up from the lower elevations to take advantage of the flowering plants in Las Canadas and have been a regular sight during our last week of stargazing.
The sky is a real treat at the moment with four prominent planets on view and the summer constellations appearing. The Milky Way was again clear and bright enough this morning to cast a shadow which I still haven’t got used to and even when the first quarter Moon was up it was still clearly visible in the sky; I doubt there are many other places where that could be said! One of the benefits of Tenerife’s skies that is often overlooked is the sheer quantity of meteors that you see regardless of whether there is a recognised meteor shower happening or not. It seemed like every minute or so this morning one of us said “that was a bright one”. Most are small and of short duration but Tenerife’s skies are so good they show up well and it’s now becoming an oddity if we don’t see a good number of meteors, the complete opposite of skies back in the UK! We really must get our all-sky camera set up for a night and capture them I’m sure it would make a nice time lapse.
August’s Perseid meteor shower, known locally as the “Tears of San Lorenzo” should be a stunner coinciding with a new moon as it does. The mountain will be overrun with excursions as normal but we have a nice, dark spot where no one other than the beekeepers go! Looking forward to that very much.
We’ve seen wonderful skies over the last two nights as the Milky Way has risen. The sky has been anything but dark with the Milky Way clearly casting a shadow and illuminating the ground. Observing and imaging from around 2200 metres last night, we were treated to a gorgeous sky with huge contrast and detail visible in the Milky Way. The Great Cluster in Hercules (Messier M13) could be made out overhead with the naked eye and peering down to the southern horizon, we could even see the triangle of stars that are the top three stars of the Southern Cross below the ever-stunning and easy naked eye target of globular cluster Omega Centauri.
The sky offered many different vistas depending on where we looked: north and there were fewer but more distinct stars with darker sky in between and the major constellations of Ursas Major and Minor with Draco the dragon in between; east and there was the trailing spiral arm of the Milky Way with its myriad small bright stars arching to the horizon and signature constellations of Lyrae, Cygnus and Cassiopea; south and we were overwhelmed by the glow of the centre of the galaxy and the dark contrast in its dust lanes with Sagittarius and Scorpio high in the sky and planets Saturn and Mars;
and west we had the super-bright Jupiter with constellations Libra, Virgo and Leo suspended over El Teide. We sighted over twenty meteors between us including two or three nice bright, green ones and a few satellites.
The Ring Nebula (M57) is a favourite target at this time of year. To the naked eye it looks like a bright grey smoke ring but with the help of a camera, its true beauty is shown. This is a planetary nebula, formed from the death of a star, the ring that we see is a cloud of gas and dust that escaped the dying star and is now expanding out into space. Note the central star in the middle of the ring, this is the remains of the original star which is now a white dwarf, also note the faint spiral galaxy below and to the right.
Sunday night served up a stunning sky for our guests. Despite some annoying bedroom lights at the Parador Hotel, the Milky Way was in excellent contrast and star clusters and bright nebulae were clearly visible to the naked eye. The binoculars were in constant use with so many amazing deep sky objects to look at and we were spoiled for choice. Switching to the telescope brought some of these targets into stunning close-up and objects like bright globular clusters M13 and Omega Centauri were sharply defined. The atmosphere was steady and Jupiter was also well-defined with the two main cloud bands clearly visible and even a suggestion of the northern polar cap but the “star” again was Saturn bringing exclamations of “wow!” as we zoomed in on it and its surreal rings. It was beautifully presented against an inky black sky and our guests commented that it didn’t look real it was so clear. It was such a good night we stayed out a lot longer than we had originally planned.
Different minerals on the surface of the Moon exhibit colours that we don’t normally see except through a telescope or thanks to the sensitivity of a camera. We took this shot during the recent full Moon and the colours at clearly visible. Blue marks deposits of Titanium and orange shows where Iron is present. This is one of our favourite photos we’ve taken so far this year.
We are now fully booked until the end of June. Please book early for July and August.
“My husband and I had an amazing tour of the cosmos with Dark Skies Tenerife and could not have been happier with our experience. Firstly they accommodated our schedule when we weren’t able to attend one of the normally scheduled tours, and were able to take us on a private tour instead on a Saturday. On the evening, they conveniently picked us up from where we were staying where we then drove up the mountain to see a spectacular sunset. We had a fantastic picnic dinner and we were grateful that all of the food was vegetarian as requested (thanks guys!). After sunset we were able to spend several hours learning about space and seeing the night sky, including key constellations, planets, nebulas and even a far away galaxy! Simon is absolutely brilliant in his knowledge of the cosmos, explaining everything with enthusiasm and clarity. And although it was cold Margaret was prepped with blankets, hot chocolate and biscuits for us to warm up. The only thing we wished we walked away with were a few more pictures! We didn’t have a good camera with us, but would definitely recommend bringing one to capture the memories (and benefit from long exposure settings!) Worth every penny, we highly recommend this experience for people of all ages visiting beautiful Tenerife :)”
Kristen and Alex March 2018
After a few days of unsettled weather and cloud over the mountain, things are getting back to normal with clear skies returning. After the rain and cloud, the atmosphere should be extra clear too. This coincides nicely with delivery of the new Baader MPCC coma corrector for our Newt which will give us much improved imaging performance and better visual viewing too.
Following an online chat with astronomer friend, Michael Tweedy, we think we have solved the green colour of this satellite. The second stage rocket that manoeuvred the satellite into orbit used liquid oxygen and hydrogen as fuel. A by-product of this is excited oxygen atoms that glow green in the atmosphere as they return to their normal sate. It’s the same principle as the Northern Lights so our little satellite was putting on its own aurora! I love science!