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 >>

Giant Lizards

Gallotia auaritae, the giant Palmeran lizard
February 16, 2008

  Yesterday I clean forgot that in December last year they found out that the giant Canarian lizard, Gallotia auaritae, isn’t extinct after all. José Antonio Mateo, a reptile expert, only found the one, but he believes there must be a colony within a kilometre of the one he found. In this case, “giant” means 30 cm (one foot) long. Extinct specimens are larger. Twenty-five years ago, they thought Gallotia…

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 >>

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://sheilacrosby.com/articles/drunks.php

Read More >>

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…

Read More >>