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James

Milky Way from La Palma :)

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We've just got back from 2 weeks in La Palma (I guess all good things come to an end).

An interesting two weeks weather wise - some very clear days (and nights) and some very dusty/hot days (and nights). For a good chunk of the holiday the Canaries were in the grip of the Calima - a very dusty and hot wind coming from the Sahara. When the Calima blows the temperature rockets and the air gets very dusty, sometimes reducing visibility down to just a mile or two.

Sadly this time (like the last time I went!) the Perseids weren't seen  - rained off again! What are the odds....


But, my patient and long suffering wife allowed me as many chances as possible to go out at night - so, many hours were spent negotiating endless switchbacks in an underpowered car (as it happens one with worn out brakes!).


It would have been easier to just sit by the pool of course drinking beer but spending several nights at 7500ft was just too appealing :)

In between the unpacking I've sneaked a look at some of the images I've got for some timelapses - I've pulled a few out and attached them to this post. The images all have the Milky Way as their theme, at this time of year the Milky Way is visible in all its glory with Scorpius and Sagittarius not on the horizon like here but up high in the sky. 

I spent several nights up in the vicinity of the observatories on the Roque de los Muchachos - at 7500ft the air is clear, dry and steady - it's a little odd seeing thousands of stars, most of them not twinkling at all .

There's no shortage of images (I'll try not to flood the forum with them) but there's a shortage of time to devote to creating a timelapse or two so it may take a while to do that - for some reason my family, having seen little of me on holiday, now want to spend time with me :)  All the images are take from timelapses so are generally 25 second exposures through a 14mm lens at f/1.8.

First up: (if you click on the pictures a slightly sharper version will load up)

Kate, Tom and me looking at the Milky Way from the house we were staying in. Our stargazing was cut short by fog coming up the hill unfortunately (visible on the lower right of the picture). This is quite common at lower altitudes - in this case 2500ft. Contrary to popular perception amongst astronomers La Palma is actually quite cloudy beneath about 3000-3500 feet.

MW_gaze_large.thumb.jpg.5a579abf3a80096da21284741e864de1.jpg

The Caldera de Taburiente from the Roque de los Muchachos :) The lights visible to the lower right are from the towns of Los Llanos and Tazacorte. On the horizon are the lights of the island of El Hierro. There was a fair degree of desert dust in the air hence the orange glow.

Caldera.thumb.jpg.2ab9b7b604edf5f9aac558cd065aca0c.jpg

The Gran Telescopio Canarias on the Roque de los Muchachos.

GTC_La_Palma_full.thumb.jpg.afe148dfdac5649b1395fbce99ff8f6e.jpg

 

The view from the kitchen. No, honestly!! The place we stayed in is very dark - luckily the streetlights that go by the house were all not working - no one local seemed bothered either - I get the feeling they didn’t want the streetlights in the first place…

Kitchen_view_full.thumb.jpg.27b488995df1009bbe7801de4d15f53c.jpg

The shadow of La Palma can be seen to the left of Mt Teide on the island of Tenerife in this photo. 

LaPalma_Shadow.thumb.jpg.72a1d552f5cb053115c8377b5370a265.jpg

The Caldera de Taburiente again from the Roque de los Muchachos - this time with a bit of moon light lighting the clouds below.

MoonlitCaldera.thumb.jpg.96e053f347478edef658d4a33be6f17a.jpg

 

The Milky Way again (sorry!). From further south on the island. A tricky picture to take as the slope I was taking the photo on was nearly 45 degrees steep… luckily it was fine volcanic grains like sand on a beach so it was possible to dig in the the slope.. the hillside was illuminated by the lights of the towns behind ..

MW_full.thumb.jpg.fddf245d80cd6c286583b0bf51e189f8.jpg

 

 

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Wow, amazing images James. Must be incredible to see Sagittarius so high in the sky, and to see the centre of the galaxy like that....well, I’d love to see that!

Is that a meteor you’ve caught in the second image?

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1 minute ago, Stu said:

 

Is that a meteor you’ve caught in the second image?

I think so, it was only in one image (satellites usually show up in two or three images in a row.

It was amazing looking at the Milky Way from Sagittarius right through to Cassiopeia and actually being able to see texture in it all the way. Even with my 46 year old eyes :) 

The kids loved it too - their eyes are better than mine so the view must have been great for them..

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Just now, James said:

I think so, it was only in one image (satellites usually show up in two or three images in a row.

It was amazing looking at the Milky Way from Sagittarius right through to Cassiopeia and actually being able to see texture in it all the way. Even with my 46 year old eyes :) 

The kids loved it too - their eyes are better than mine so the view must have been great for them..

When I see the size of my children’s pupils, it makes me regret not taking up astronomy until I was 30!!!

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Great stuff as usual James,  looking forward to the full report & timelapse  ?

Love the view from the kitchen.

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Simply outstanding ! 

Thanks so much for posting these. It gives a great idea of what's there and also something to aim for.

If I was being pushed to give a favourite then it would have to be the cloud inversion and Milky Way in photo 6. You didn't do a timelapse of this scene by any chance ? Those clouds would look lovely waving around under the moon.

Well done to Kate and Tom too for putting up with you and posing so well.

Dave.

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Thanks Dave :) That one is a single shot from a time lapse (a brief one though, it was from the last night there and we had to be up early).

Tom came up with me to the Roque twice, good to have the company and good to have a rational 10 year old point out when “let’s walk over to that bit there” was not a good idea... “Um Dad, that’s a 3000 ft drop and doesn’t look very secure, maybe that’s why there’s a barrier there, you don’t want to drop your lens there do you?” (Yes, he’s learned that I take much better care of him and my equipment than I do of myself).

Just not sure now when I’ll have the time to stick the time lapses together... we ended up with only half the number of clear nights expected which at the time was quite frustrating for me but perhaps was a good thing really.

 I think I need another holiday!

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26 minutes ago, davew said:

Thanks so much for posting these. It gives a great idea of what's there and also something to aim for.

It’s worth pointing out that the images from up at the Roque over the caldera are from spots open and accessible to the public at night time. The one of the Gran Telescopio Canarias did involve walking a short way through some scrub at the side of the road :)

I have some shots of some of the scopes that are illuminated by headlights and tail lights of cars. The scopes concerned probably weren’t bothered (the purely visual ones are higher up). It makes timelapsing a little harder though as most time lapses get interrupted by headlights and the number of people who insist on taking photos of the Milky Way with them shining a megawatt torch up at the Milky Way was quite remarkable...

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13 hours ago, Stu said:

When I see the size of my children’s pupils, it makes me regret not taking up astronomy until I was 30!!!

Ditto... although I remember the views as a 7-10 year old where I grow up in Scotland (Linlithgow - a few miles south was a great dark spot). I look at Toms eyes fully dilated and it's quite frightening how wide they get! I can only achieve the same by having drops put in at the opticians ... which of course makes them water and defeats the (astronomy) purpose entirely..

 

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Superb James..i just got back from Gran Canaria and did a astro tour a couple of times..yes the calima was evident as you looked at the volcanic mountains..the only day it looked really clear was the day we flew home..La Palma is very much on my hit list as a dedicated astro holiday,so any info you have please can you send either as a pm if you don't want to clog up your thread..

Did you take your own equipment,you mentioned scope so assumed you did or did you hire it..I took my S.A. and camera but would love to take a scope..if you could hire a mount out there that be awesome..i did the milky way myself

20180801_102253.jpg

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I hired a scope (Evolution 6 with Starsense) from these people: http://athos.org  Don't worry about the all German/Spanish website, they've people there who speak/write good English. Partly as they're based just 10 minutes from where I went to. I did it all last minute so ended up with a smaller scope than may have seemed desirable but there was a logic to it. The skies are so dark there that the Evo 6 comfortably out performed my 10" Newt here in the UK - steady seeing really helped too, I could push the magnification much higher. Also, I'd never used a Starsense so thought I'd give it a go - I have to admit, it was really cool hitting the align button and waiting a minute or two an bingo, job done... if I'd gone for a bigger scope I'd have probably never enjoyed the views here in the UK again.

There's a lot to think about if you're thinking of an astro based trip to La Palma, perhaps more than can be put on here easily but very very quickly, two main points... 1) hire a decent car. The roads are very windy (that's windy as in winding up a clock, not gales!) with lots of switchbacks  - if you want to go up to the Roque de los Muchachos you can do so but from the northwest it's a series of brutal switchbacks that will tax your engine on the way up and the brakes on the way down. From the east (Santa Cruz side) the road is a bit easier with far fewer brutal switchbacks but it takes considerably longer... it really depends where you are on the island.

2) La Palma's weather is interesting (being an island!). It's actually pretty common to be cloudy everywhere at night up to about 3000-3500 feet (that's most of the island!).. When the winds come from the north east (the prevailing direction there) there's usually an inversion layer - beneath that layer it's cloudy - we where staying this time at a place at 2500ft and it clouded over most nights, last time round we stayed at 4500 feet and it was clear every night we were there but as they're not allowed to build above 1400 metres it can be hard to find somewhere that high!) Above that layer it's usually clear. I the wind is coming from the east it usually gets dusty in a day or so for a day or three and very hot. From the south east/south it often brings rain, even at the top. Most other directions seem to be OK :) 

3) OK, I said two points but the third is relevant. If going up to the top you've be spending the night up at 7500 feet. I'm reasonably fit so didn't feel it too much but a 100 metre walk feels like 300! My son Thomas who is 10 but is extremely fit (I mean really really fit) struggled with the altitude. At his age, despite being the height of a 13/14 year old his lungs just aren't big enough yet. So Dad carried all the kit :) If you're a smoker or carrying extra protection round your waist like me it can be quite hard. The top can be blowing a gale - before going up check the weather on here: http://www.not.iac.es/weather/index.php for some clues! Note the humidity.. when it's down at 2-5% you really need to take lots of water :)

I could go on but won't, I've got some timelapses to do :) Feel free to PM if you have any questions..

James

 

 

 

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Once again mate, absolutely stunning. I envy your widefield imaging skills. Them skies would be a pleasure too :D

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Ahhhh!  Summer skies from La Palma...gorgeous!  Feel free to post too many.  Great memories.  Thank you.

You didn't go for the 'extreme' concrete road then  :)

Looking forward to your time lapses.

Cheers

Paul

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1 hour ago, clarkpm4242 said:

 

You didn't go for the 'extreme' concrete road then  :)

Sadly not... the car we had was terribly underpowered and the brakes on the last day heading back down to Santa Cruz were sounding really rough. I know the road you mean and could see the top of it from near where we stayed but on balance I didn't think the car could cope. Could have flown it with my current car but there you go... :)

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3 hours ago, James said:

I hired a scope (Evolution 6 with Starsense) from these people: http://athos.org  Don't worry about the all German/Spanish website, they've people there who speak/write good English. Partly as they're based just 10 minutes from where I went to. I did it all last minute so ended up with a smaller scope than may have seemed desirable but there was a logic to it. The skies are so dark there that the Evo 6 comfortably out performed my 10" Newt here in the UK - steady seeing really helped too, I could push the magnification much higher. Also, I'd never used a Starsense so thought I'd give it a go - I have to admit, it was really cool hitting the align button and waiting a minute or two an bingo, job done... if I'd gone for a bigger scope I'd have probably never enjoyed the views here in the UK again.

There's a lot to think about if you're thinking of an astro based trip to La Palma, perhaps more than can be put on here easily but very very quickly, two main points... 1) hire a decent car. The roads are very windy (that's windy as in winding up a clock, not gales!) with lots of switchbacks  - if you want to go up to the Roque de los Muchachos you can do so but from the northwest it's a series of brutal switchbacks that will tax your engine on the way up and the brakes on the way down. From the east (Santa Cruz side) the road is a bit easier with far fewer brutal switchbacks but it takes considerably longer... it really depends where you are on the island.

2) La Palma's weather is interesting (being an island!). It's actually pretty common to be cloudy everywhere at night up to about 3000-3500 feet (that's most of the island!).. When the winds come from the north east (the prevailing direction there) there's usually an inversion layer - beneath that layer it's cloudy - we where staying this time at a place at 2500ft and it clouded over most nights, last time round we stayed at 4500 feet and it was clear every night we were there but as they're not allowed to build above 1400 metres it can be hard to find somewhere that high!) Above that layer it's usually clear. I the wind is coming from the east it usually gets dusty in a day or so for a day or three and very hot. From the south east/south it often brings rain, even at the top. Most other directions seem to be OK :) 

3) OK, I said two points but the third is relevant. If going up to the top you've be spending the night up at 7500 feet. I'm reasonably fit so didn't feel it too much but a 100 metre walk feels like 300! My son Thomas who is 10 but is extremely fit (I mean really really fit) struggled with the altitude. At his age, despite being the height of a 13/14 year old his lungs just aren't big enough yet. So Dad carried all the kit :) If you're a smoker or carrying extra protection round your waist like me it can be quite hard. The top can be blowing a gale - before going up check the weather on here: http://www.not.iac.es/weather/index.php for some clues! Note the humidity.. when it's down at 2-5% you really need to take lots of water :)

I could go on but won't, I've got some timelapses to do :) Feel free to PM if you have any questions..

James

 

 

 

Thankyou James for the info..any ideas on say Oct/Nov conditions..thinking of early winter targets..or is it best during the summer

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On 19/08/2018 at 20:56, newbie alert said:

Thankyou James for the info..any ideas on say Oct/Nov conditions..thinking of early winter targets..or is it best during the summer

Sorry! Missed your reply... I can't speak for October but statistically it's wetter and has less sun (not just because of shorter days!). If you get to altitude that would probably be irrelevant (although if you do go to altitude you'll need more clothes!). The top of the Roque in August was between 12-15c at night each time I was up there, although a couple of nights were windy and I would have appreciated a bit more clothing. Oddly, one place I went to only about 700 feet lower in altitude was 27c!!  I needed my coat to ward off the mossies. Beneath the 'inversion layer' the temperatures are 'fairly' constant year round. Mid winter the Roque can get snow/ice...

Being an island the weather is very 'temperate' and based on the direction of wind and predicting the weather is pretty variable (we're used to that in the UK!).

I think if you take the approach that you'll drive up to somewhere at a higher altitude then the time of year isn't as important except in terms of clothing and astro targets. If you are constrained, i.e. don't have the option of driving up to higher altitude then the summer months will give you more chances. Hopefully there's a few on SGL that have been there at different times of the year and can chip in as I know that's all a bit vague!!

James

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Beautiful images James, i'm here now but have only ventured out by walking maybe 1/2 a mile from hotel, I totally admire your commitment !

As you say, every night has been cloudy low down or hindered by fullish moon.

I'm hoping to find a window between sun down and moon up on Monday or Tuesday next week.

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Good luck @knobby 

Don't click the following link unless you have plenty of data allowance on your phone or are on wifi :) 

Have a look here:  http://lapalma.hdmeteo.com/index.php?user=meteo-elcharco

This is pretty much live weather stats on La Palma (the location is a little bit up the hill and north of where you are (I'm guessing your near Las Indias/Fuencaliente). You'll see from the stats from the second map, up at the viewpoint at El Charco the humidity is 24%... there's definitely no cloud there! If you are able to do half a mile uphill? From memory it's a pretty steep hill mind!

Looking at this stuff is a bit of a trap though unless you have a generous data allowance on your phone.. (and a tolerant spouse!)

James

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MoonlitCaldera.jpg

 

This my favourite James, truly gorgeous, what were your settings for this?

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Thank you :)

25 seconds, ISO3200, 14mm f/1.8 Canon 6D.

In hindsight I should have gone for either less time, less ISO or less wide open, prob less wide open, say f2.2 and 20 secs.

In processing this and the others for a time lapse I’m having the dubious pleasure of having to turn down settings :)

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1 hour ago, James said:

Good luck @knobby 

Don't click the following link unless you have plenty of data allowance on your phone or are on wifi :) 

Have a look here:  http://lapalma.hdmeteo.com/index.php?user=meteo-elcharco

This is pretty much live weather stats on La Palma (the location is a little bit up the hill and north of where you are (I'm guessing your near Las Indias/Fuencaliente). You'll see from the stats from the second map, up at the viewpoint at El Charco the humidity is 24%... there's definitely no cloud there! If you are able to do half a mile uphill? From memory it's a pretty steep hill mind!

Looking at this stuff is a bit of a trap though unless you have a generous data allowance on your phone.. (and a tolerant spouse!)

James

Thanks James, bang on Las indias.

Edit - ah, just googled ... 25 mins drive or 3 hour walk ?

Edited by knobby

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An excellent set. Almost surreal.

Like looking at a really close galaxy! 

Oh, hold.... :)

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1 hour ago, knobby said:

Thanks James, bang on Las indias.

Edit - ah, just googled ... 25 mins drive or 3 hour walk ?

Vastly easier to drive uphill than walk!! :)

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