The Observatory

Gran Telescopio Canarias, or GTC, the biggest optical telescope in the world, Roque de Los Muchachos observatory, La Palma
February 10, 2008

  Twinkling stars are pretty, but astronomers would much rather they didn’t. The twinkle is caused by movement in the air above you (the same as a mirage on very hot days) and it stops the astronomers getting a clear view. The Hubble Telescope gets such wonderfully clear images because it’s out of the atmosphere altogether. But there’s only one Hubble, and it cost a fortune. So they build ground-based…

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Mojitos

Mojitos for carnival, Santa Cruz de La Palma
February 6, 2008

  Mojitos are a popular drink during Carnival: sugar, lemon juice, rum and mint. This bar is famous for them all year round, so during Carnival they prepare them in batches. This was one of the smaller batches! One of the things I like about La Palma, is that people often have a few drinks, but it’s rare to see anyone downright drunk. There’s an article about this at http://lapalma-island.com/articles/drunks.php

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Carnival

The kids' carnival bus, Breña Baja, La Palma
February 2, 2008

Spain celebrates Carnival in the week before the season of Lent. I always say people are making sure they have something really juicey to repent, but these days most people just regard it as a darn good excuse for a party. It wasn’t always that way. Franco banned Carnival. It’s always been a time when people could say and do things they wouldn’t normally get away with, and perhaps he…

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Where the heck 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 girl 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. My…

February 1, 2008
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