We are committed to giving our guests the very best experience and that includes their health and safety. Although it is not a formal requirement to have this we have decided to be specifically trained in outdoor first aid recognising that should medical help on the mountain be required, it may take some time to arrive. We carry a full first aid kit at all times and our activities are risk assessed. We are also registered with the Canary Islands Emergency Services using a system that allows us to call for help even in areas with no mobile phone reception. For those guests looking to travel deep into Las Canadas to watch the stars, Simon is also trained in outdoor navigation and a volunteer ranger with the Northumberland National Park. Safe skies!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jupiter is a magnificent object in our skies at the moment. Here is how we captured it during April where we see both sides of Jupiter with its moon Io in attendance. In one image we can see the Great Red Spot, a massive hurricane that has been raging for at least 300 years and is 3 times the size of the planet Earth, and nearby the shadow of Io as it passes between the Sun and Jupiter – a mini-eclipse!
Jupiter is a very turbulent gas giant and its clouds are in constant motion, changing shape and colour making it fascinating to study. These clouds are being driven by near supersonic winds with each band or zone of clouds moving in opposite directions. The chemical composition of the atmosphere, high wind speeds and enormous pressures on Jupiter would make this a very inhospitable place to visit though.
The Milky Way is brightening in our night sky as we move into Milky Way season – check out this wonderful image taken last year by our resident astrophotographer. If you’d like to see the Milky Way or learn to take pics like this, get in touch!
A popular target at this time of year, the Double Cluster lies between Cassiopeia and Perseus. They are clearly visible with the naked eye from our location but their beauty is best exposed through binoculars or a telescope. They lie around 7500 light years away and form the jewelled handle of Perseus’s sword.