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Reaching For The Stars In Tenerife

There’s nothing I like more than standing on my balcony at night to admire the wealth of heavenly bodies, sadly since the court injunction I now have to divert my gaze up to the skies. Luckily for me Tenerife offers a window on the heavens that few other destinations can match, the skies here are incredibly clear, partly thanks to nature and partly due to shrewd protection against sky pollution.

Night in Teide

Piazzi’s nights

It all started with an Italian man, Charles Piazzi Smyth when he visited Tenerife 150 years ago. With no Playa de las Americas nightclubs to tempt him he began to appreciate constellations above him and looked into why the views were so good. Our man Charles found that the trade winds and layered air streams were ideal to keep those stars twinkling bright and he wrote a book about his discovery. Later he became Astronomer Royal for Scotland and was shocked by the poor night viewing in Edinburgh.

Back in the modern world, the Canarian government has been very on the ball and brought in a sky law that strictly controls street lighting, soft yellow glows are the order of the day with the glare shielded downwards. That’s good news for all those keen astronomers and the Tenerife observatory perched 2,400 metres up on the edge of Mount Teide National Park. All the serious deep space probing goes on there but there are thousands of fun sky watchers all over the island trying to tell their bear from their plough.

The Museo de la Ciencia y El Cosmos in La Laguna fires up many young imaginations with monthly astronomy nights using their own powerful rooftop telescope and inside the museum the planetarium gives further fuel to those wishing to crane their necks.

Tenerife is recognised as a great place to enjoy clear nights. To romantics the stars are a great background to late walks along the beach but they can even kick start an ageing rock star’s education. Queen guitarist Brian May became a big fan of the Canary Islands and used the observatories on La Palma and Tenerife to complete his PHD in astronomy three years ago. The studies began in the 1970’s but a crazy little thing called rock and roll distracted Brian.

Meteor showers are often seen over Tenerife and it’s possible to trace the orbit of one of the space stations. Most visitors are blissfully unaware of their holiday isle’s nocturnal claim to fame but just take a glance up and thank your lucky stars you are in Tenerife.

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