Happy Birthday Copernicus

  Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Torun, Poland on February 19, 1473. From the ancient Greeks, everyone in Europe believed that the Earth was the centre of the universe. The great work of Copernicus De revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), published in 1543, showed that the sun was at the center. You can see evidence of this yourself with binoculars or a small telescope. Both…

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Map of the Canary Islands, showing La Palma at top left

Where on Earth is La Palma anyway?

I originally came to La Palma to work at the astronomical observatory here. Almost as soon as I heard I’d got the job, my parents went to a travel agent to find out how much it would cost to visit. The young man at the desk said, “Las Palmas de Gran Canaris? Certainly Sir. I’ll just look it up for you.” “No,” explained my father. “The island of La Palma….

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Heather Trees on La Palma

All the heather trees are in bloom along the road to the Roque de los Muchachos. Yes, heather trees. Canarian heather (Erica arborea) is close relatives of English and Scottish heather, but it’s a tree, growing anything up to 5 m tall. The tiny leaves are very like English heather, and the flowers are much the same shape, but always white. The wood’s very dense and hard, so it’s good…

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Water filters

Some of the older houses still use these water filters and coolers in summer. You put the water into the bowl at the top, made of a porous stone (I think it’s volcanic tuff). The water filters through, and drips into the bottom bowl, which isn’t porous. Obviously this filters out any impurities, and because some of the water evaporates, the rest cools down. The stand for the wooden bowls…

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Goodbye Street, Tijarafe, La Palma island

“Goodbye Street”, Tijarafe

This is the street in Tijarafe which leads from the church to the Town Hall, where the cemetery used to be. Consequently it has the eloquent and poignant name, “Goodbye Street” (Calle Adios) This stuck in the mind of a local girl who emigrated to Cuba and became a poet: “If you come to visit my island, La Palma, do not forget Tijarafe where there is a street called Adios……

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Almond blossom around an old barn with a dragon tree. Garafia, La Palma island

Almond blossom

The north-west of the island is home to great many almond trees, and at this time of the year, they’re all blossoming. The trees in El Paso and Garafía are beautiful, but the best display of all is at Puntagorda. In places, the whole hillside turns pale pink. In fact Puntagorda hosts an annual almond blossom fiesta. The date varies — the Town Hall sets it a couple of weeks…

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