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ABOUT LA PALMA

Astronomy - Stargazing on La Palma

Stargazing on La Palma

It seems odd recommending something that I never do myself, but if you're a keen star gazer, La Palma is something special. I might not be into astronomy but I'm not so young either. What that means is that I can still remember the days when, as a child, I looked up into the skies above me with a sense of awe. In those days, before the light pollution from modern street lighting destroyed the view, there seemed to be literally millions of stars floating above me. These days, if I look outside at night, I see maybe 50 or so. That's a bit sad.

One evening, tempted by what I could already see at night from sea level and having heard so many folks tell me how clear the skies were at night at the top of the island, I found myself laying on my back with a can of beer near the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, chatting to a couple of friends and gazing up at the clouds of stars above us. An impressive sight. Even if the stars have mostly vanished above Europe, the night skies above La Palma are as dark and full of stars as in my best childhood memories. If you're a keen astronomer, you simply have to visit La Palma.

Clouds permitting, and they're rather unpredictable, the clear sky above La Palma makes it one of the best places in the world for astronomers. On a good night the Milky Way is clearly visible amid the many constellations that fill the sky. La Palma is near the equator but far from tropical storms, so you can observe the entire northern hemisphere and part of the southern hemisphere from this single location.

La Palma was the world's first Starlight Reserve and there are various laws in place to control lighting in public places, to ensure it retains this unique status.

The Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is home to some of the most important telescopes anywhere in the world. The Observatory is open for daytime visits and if you can arrange a visit here: www.iac.es.