When we’re not taking people up the mountain I sometimes get the opportunity to do some deep sky imaging and recently I had a go at two of the best, The Eagle Nebula made famous by Hubble’s close up of the pillars of creation where stars are being born and The Helix Nebula, also known as “The eye of God”. They’re both too faint to see well in anything but a very large telescope and it takes long exposures with a camera to bring out the amazing colours. We’ve noticed that it’s been much busier up the mountain this year as astro-tourism grows in popularity, fortunately we have access to some secluded spots where we can get away from the headlights, head torches and flashlights that are blighting the main viewing areas in Las Canadas, otherwise it would be a lot harder to get such pictures.
There’s a bit of a heatwave on the south coast at the moment and that has transferred up the mountain too. At 1800m (nearly 500m higher than Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain) it was 25c. At 1am!
The sky low down is dusty and hazy and sunset was subdued compared to normal but when the stars came out it was amazing as usual. The Milky Way was so obvious it needed no introduction and young Luke was first to see it and dad Marcus got his first pictures of it.
Jupiter and Saturn looked magnificent in their respective constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius and Luke’s brother Ellis got some great pictures of them with his dad’s mobile phone through our telescope. A budding astro photographer without a doubt.
Later in the night we watched the waning Moon rise majestically over a tree-topped ridge bathing the landscape in a cool white glow and casting shadows amongst the trees. We fitted Marcus’s camera to the telescope and got some shots to remember.
I love what I do.
We had a glorious night on the mountain last night with guests John, Charlie and Billy. The air was steady and as clear as I’ve seen it. After a stunning sunset accompanied by a one-day-old crescent Moon, we turned our attention to the stars and watched as more and more came out and the Milky Way appeared. We counted 32 shooting stars and doubtless missed more but the highlight for me was Saturn. Under steady skies we were able to see its rings clearly and the Cassini Division was sharp and clear. Cloud bands were visible on the planet’s surface and we could also see Saturn’s five brightest moons – Titan, Rhea, Dione, Enceladus and Tethys. Titan, the giant moon is always an easy spot but to see the other 4 was a bonus, right down to Enceladus which is only 500km in diameter, at a distance of roughly 700 million miles, that’s pretty impressive! Saturn remains well positioned for observing for a few months yet.
There are a couple of decent meteor showers underway and this next week is a great time to see them. A couple of nights ago we saw more than 20 in a couple of hours with two or three memorable ones. As the Moon is not favourable for the peak of the Perseids on the 13th / 14th August, now is the time to catch some!
We have received a lot of bookings of late and now find ourselves almost fully booked for the rest of year. If you’re still hoping to come with us we’d advise you book up asap as there are only a few dates left!
We got back to Tenerife yesterday and straight back up the mountain with guests Hilary and David for sunset and the partial eclipse of the Moon, the last eclipse for two years. It was a lovely evening and even the International Space Station made a flyby over the Moon and Saturn’s rings were also on view.
One of the impressive southern targets we’ve been showing guests recently is Omega Centauri, a huge globular cluster of around 10 million stars. Astronomers believe there is a large black hole at the centre suggesting this it may have its origins as a galaxy rather than a globular cluster. Easily visible to the naked eye and comparable in size to a full Moon, it’s great in binoculars and even better through our large telescope. Here’s a picture we took last night while on the mountain with our deep sky imaging rig.
While prices everywhere sky rocket to take advantage of families on school holiday breaks, 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 that will be educational as well. This coming half-term coincides with a favourable Moon and lots of exciting things to see in the sky.
Benjamin and Bridget, May 2019
“Simon provided us with an exceptional stargazing evening during our recent stay in Tenerife. Simon was an extremely welcoming host who took care of all our needs, including specific dietary requirements.
During our time stargazing, Simon’s passion and expertise for the night sky shone through as we made a series of observations via the naked eye, binoculars and telescope.
We would wholeheartedly recommend Dark Skies Tenerife to anyone seeking a personalised stargazing adventure”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
Astronomy Now magazine recently published two of our images both of which we took here in Tenerife.
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.
“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
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!