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.
“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 :)”
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!
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! https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/…/ula-atlas-v-afspc-11…/
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.
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.
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
“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!”
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!
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.