Thursday, 15 December 2011

La Palma Diary - Day Seven

I've come to my final day and night on the mountain.

Everything is becoming bit of a blur.

I've seen so many telescopes, so many remarkable things - and had so little sleep.

Last night I went for a walk and saw perhaps the most amazing sight of the trip... the Geminids meteors.

These meteors appear each December as the Earth barrels through the dust and debris of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon.

The first meteor streaked across the entire sky for about 10 seconds, burning up in spectacular fashion.

The sky here's so clear - you see so many stars and the Milky Way.

The meteor initially looked like an emergency flare, moving quickly but also gently (perhaps because of the eerie silence).

I've seen meteors before, but this one looked so foreign I didn't know what it was.

I initially thought one of the telescopes had fired a flare skyward (to check the weather conditions, perhaps)?

But its strange trajectory across the sky then made me realise how daft that was!

More meteors appeared at a steady rate and of course I went to fetch my various cameras, but didn't have the equipment, skills or luck to catch them.

And none matched the first one I'd seen.

Earlier in the day I visited yet more telescopes and filmed various bits and pieces for upcoming Deep Sky Videos.

These included the formidable MAGIC telescope, a pair of huge machines which detect gamma rays from the depths of space.

They are among the most striking sights on the mountain (below) because their huge mirrors and exposed day and night, not concealed within a dome.

Today I will see I couple more telescopes and spend a final night on the volcano.

Then home at last - which I am looking forward to.

Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is run by The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. I am being hosted by the Isaac Newton Group of telescopes. The videos from this trip will appear on Deep Sky Videos: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Click here for diary day one.
Click here for diary day two.
Click here for diary day three.
Click here for diary day four.
Click here for diary day five.
Click here for diary day six.
Click here for diary day seven.
Click here for diary day eight.

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