Tour Guiding again

May 9, 2008

This morning I took a party of kids around the Herschel Telescope. It was the first time for about 6 months, so I felt rusty, but it went fairly well. It really helped that the tech staff moved the dome and telescope for us. The bad part was that I’d forgotten how cold the wind can be up there, and I wasn’t dressed for it at all.


SuperWASP, the Planet-Hunter

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,…

April 5, 2008

The MAGIC telescope

This is the MAGIC telescope (Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov Telescope). It’s perhaps the most exotic telescope at the observatory at the Roque de los Muchachos. It’s not an optical telescope. Instead of observing visible light, it’s looking for gamma rays. Visible light is made up of different wavelengths, which give the different colours from red to violet. Wavelengths which are just a bit too short to see form ultra-violet…

February 19, 2008

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…



So here we are in this lovely sub-tropical island, land of eternal spring. And the top of the mountain is covered with snow. Last night’s rain turned into a storm, with far too much thunder and lightning to sleep through. It went on for hours. And this morning, I could see snow on the mountain. Not just the peak (the Roque de los Muchachos at 2426 m or 7,959 ft),…

February 9, 2008

A Magical Perk.

August 15, 2007

Yesterday I was guide for another two telescope visits. Unusually, they were afternoon visits. First I showed a sick boy and his mother around, and then a group of British amateur astronomers. The best bit was that after the amateurs finished seeing the Herschel, they were going to visit the MAGIC telescope. I hadn’t seen that one yet, so I tagged along. MAGIC stands for Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov…