Starmus 2016

Sir Roger Penrose, Elizabeth Blackburn, Rafael Rebolo, Russell Schweickart, Robert Kirshner, Joseph Stiglitz, Garik Israelian, Romano Corradi standing, (director of GTC), Eugene Kaspersky in the GTC dome, La Palma
From left to right: Sir Roger Penrose, Elizabeth Blackburn, Rafael Rebolo, Russell Schweickart, Robert Kirshner, Joseph Stiglitz, Garik Israelian, Romano Corradi standing, (director of GTC), Eugene Kaspersky




Starmus is a big festival of science and art in Tenerife, with many famous speakers like Stephen Hawking, Brian May and Neil de Grasse Tyson. On Thursday morning I met the VIP visitors from Starmus at the airport. The group included Nobel Prize winners and an astronaut!

That’s when I found out that the organisers thought I was going to stay the night at the observatory. I told them two weeks ago that I couldn’t owing to another job, but that job had been cancelled so, OK. Just that I didn’t have an overnight bag with me. I sent an urgent SMS to my husband to see if he could organise something.

We went up to the Roque in the bus, had lunch, and then up to the big telescope GTC for the round table debate, which I saw live (from the back). We showed the VIPs around the telescope and took them to the viewpoint at the top of the mountain. I think they were all suitably impressed.

By the time we got back to the residencia, my overnight bag had arrived. Except that in the rush, most things I’d asked for got left behind. Oh well, the residencia sells toothpaste and shower gel but they’d run out of toothbrushes. It was only one night.

After dinner, we had stargazing with good amateur telescopes outside the residencia. Believe me, a moonless night up there is amazing. It gets hard to spot constellations, because they’re half covered by the spatter of smaller stars, but I found Scorpio and the summer triangle easily enough. And Saturn and Jupiter were gorgeous seen through the 10″ telescopes.

Most people went to bed at that point, but I joined the group going up to GTC to see some professional astronomy in action. The observer took a moment to photograph the Ring Nebula for us. I love planetary nebulae!

And so to bed. I slept really badly. I don’t know whether it was the altitude, or adrenaline, or coming off the stronger painkillers for the tooth, but I think I spent more time awake than asleep.

Anyway, we had breakfast, drove down the mountain, and I waved them goodbye at airport security at 10 am.

I was pretty tired after that, but very happy.

We had a

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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