A Visitor Centre for the Observatory, and Starmus 2016

The Sarmus debate, 2016 in the GTC dome
July 1, 2016

After 30 years, the Observatory at the Roque de Los Muchachos is finally going to have a visitor centre. I believe that the plans were finalised in 2008, and then put on hold because of the banking crisis. On Thursday, the first stone was laid, and it should be open in two years. Thursday was also the day of the Starmus round table debate inside the dome of Gran Telescopio…


Gran Teleascopio Canarias sets a new record

June 9, 2016

Gran Telescopio Canarias on La Palma is the biggest telescope in the world * and it’s just photographed the faintest thing even photographed from the earth’s surface. The photograph above shows a faint halo of stars around Galaxy UGC0180, 500 million light years away. This sort of halo was predicted by theoretical models, but it’s been extremely hard to photograph because the halos are very, very faint. It’s ten times fainter than…


Filming in the GTC

August 10, 2015

    Jaguar have been filming an advert inside the GTC. They’re going to digitally add Stephen Hawking into it later. Most of the filming was done on the telescope’s Nasmyth platform. It’s higher up than you’d think. I’m looking foraward to seeing the final result.


A new instrument for GTC

May 31, 2015

  Gran Telescopio Canarias has a (sort of) new spectrograph. The HORS spectrograph is very high resolution, and of course GTC’s huge mirror collects a lot of light from even the most distant object. Put them together and you can measure the abundances of the chemical elements in stars, determine the masses of black holes in binary systems, and the composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets. I say it’s a…


Transvulcania runners visit the Observatory

May 7, 2015

  Today 11 of the Transvulcania runners visited the observatory, together with about 20 journalists. Lucky me, I got the job of being their guide. So I showed them around GTC and the MAGIC. It felt a bit odd, because the runners were interested in the telescopes, but the photographers were largely interested in the runners. Well, it’s their job, obviously: they weren’t there for me or the telescopes. But at the end,…


Star birth

Stars being born inside the Sharpless 2-106 Nebula (S106)
October 10, 2014

  This amazing picture of stars being born inside a nebula was taken by Daniel Lopez using Grantecan. Near the centre of the picture is a dark red spot – that’s the new star which shines mostly in the infrared. The butterfly shape is a large disk of dust and gas orbiting the star. The gas near the star shines because it is ionized (like the inside of a flourescent…