San Antonio del Monte 2015

June 12, 2015

This weekend San Antonio del Monte in Garafía will hold the biggest livestock fair on the island.   San Antonio del Monte used to be a village, but the villagers moved away. About the only thing that’s left is the church of St. Anthony and the feast day, with it’s massive fair. Apart from the animals, there’s a craft fair, and of course lots of stalls selling cheap toys, food…


Training vines

March 29, 2015

  Spring is here, and the vines are sprouting all over the island. In the south of the island, particularly in Fuencaliente, it’s dry. In a hot summer day, the wind sometmies feels almost like a hairdryer. This could turn the grapes to raisins before you harvest them, so the vines are trained low to the ground to keep them out of the wind. They’re usually planeted in hollows, or…


The Swedish Solar Tower

The Swedish Solar Tower, Roque de Los Muchachos observatory
July 1, 2014

Two of the fourteen telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos observatory are solar telescopes — highly specialised to observe our own sun. This is the Swedish Solar Telescope, which was the first telescope built on the Roque. It’s currently the best solar telescope in the world since they added the new adaptive optics in 2005. (Adaptive optics compensate for air turbulence.) It can resolve details of the sun’s surface…


Flags Galore

Garafía's flag
June 11, 2014

  You see a lot of flags on La Palma. Most English visitors will recognise the flags of Spain and the European Union. But the Canary Islands are an autonomous region within Spain, and they have their own flag too. You see it a lot, especially around May 30th, which is Canary Day. And then each island has its own flag. Here’s the flag of La Palma: And as if…


SuperWASP, the Planet-Hunter

Superwasp open for business, Roque de Los Muchachos
April 4, 2014

Most of the telescopes at the observatory here look spectacular even from the outside. SuperWASP looks like a big garden shed. It’s the white thing at bottom left. Even when it opens up, it still doesn’t look like a professional telescope. To me, it looks more like a small missile launcher. The equipment isn’t that spectacular either. As modern telescopes go, it was built for peanuts. It has eight cameras,…


The highest point of La Palma

June 26, 2012

Looking east towards Tenerife. The highest point of the island is the Roque de Los Muchachos, at 2,426m (8,000 ft) above sea level. Most days of the year, the view is spectacular. Even when it’s raining at sea-level, the summit is nearly always above the clouds. In fact, you can often look down on a sea of clouds surrounding the island. Of course that’s one reason why the observatory is…