A Night on the Mountain

The last practical activity on the Starlight Guide course was a trip to the observatory at the Roque de los Muchachos. The bus left Santa Cruz at 2:30 pm, and when we arrived we left our stuff in the dormitories that I didn’t even know they had up there (they converted one of the houses some time ago for groups like ours, four bunks to a room, bathroom shared between four rooms). We had the head of the observatory show us round the Newton and Herschel telescopes, and the Swedish solar tower (the best solar telescope in the world). After dinner we watched the sunset, then had a class on astrophotography with Daniel Lopez (very cool). That was followed by stargazing with two amateur telescopes, and a visit to the control rooms of Grantecan and the Herschel while they were working. Of course I took tons of photos plus videos of the talks. We collapsed into bed at 3 am. I was really pleased that I’d brought along a spare camera battery.

I didn’t sleep too well. The room had an emergency light in the ceiling which was too bright for poor, delicate little me. So I got up early and went for a walk, where I took yet more photos.

After breakfast we had a class on infrarred and spectroscopy, followed by observations of the sun. (NEVER do this unless you know what you’re doing. You can go blind instantly.) There was only one sunspot, but it was fun. Then we went around Grantecan, including the places they never normally show the public. Including places I’ve never managed to get into before, like the aluminizing room.

And I ran out of space on my camera card. It’s a 16 Gb card, and I filled it.

So I deleted obvious duds and hunted through the menus and worked out how to drop the picture quality. And I took quite a few more before the second battery died of overwork.

I haven’t managed to edit my way through 16 Gb of photos yet, which is why there’s no photos in this post. I have ten days to revise for the exam and write a 4,000-word project in Spanish, and I won’t have lot of time for very much else. It doesn’t help that I already booked a long weekend with my friend in El Hierro, thinking that I’d have finished by then.

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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