NOT a place I’ve been before

In all my 11 years of working at the Roque as a software engineer, I never visited the Nordic Optical Telescope. We used to joke that it was NOT one of ours. And in two years of tour guiding up there, I never went in either. It was NOT on my programme. But now I’m writing an e-book about the observatory, and it’s NOT a good idea to write about…

November 22, 2009
Read More >>

Snow at the Roque

  La Palma has a lovely sub-tropical climate. It’s called the land of eternal spring. But today the top of the mountain is covered with snow. Of course, we only ever get snow at high altitude, and these days, we don’t get snow every winter. But when it snows, it can dump several feet in one night. The Roque is one of the three best sites in the world for…

February 6, 2009
Read More >>

Starlit Skies

May 31, 2008

Galaxy M51 taken with the Isaac Newton Telescope and Wide Field Camera by Simon Driver.   There’s a really simple reason why the Royal Greenwich Observatory moved their telescopes here. It’s one of the three best places in the world for astronomy. The observatory was founded in 1675 by Charles II of England – hence the “royal” for £520 (£20 over budget!). It was the first purpose-built scientific research facility…

Read More >>

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…

Read More >>