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We were lucky enough to spend two weeks over Xmas and New Year on La Palma with the family. It was my first visit to the island and loved the place. First week we stayed at the Northwest (Puntagorda), that coincided with full moon, so did not do much imaging wise. However, a very memorable moment was when stepping outside between the main curse and dessert of Xmas eve dinner and within 5 seconds of looking up, I saw a large fireball meteor sweeping accross the sky and breaking up into several pieces.

Second week we stayed about 10mins drive from Santa Cruz, so was worried about light pollution from the capital, but the first night it become obvious that the sky was still one of the best I've ever seen. The small light pollution is in the form of sodium lights, so can be dealt with by filters (apart from some flashing LED xmas lights around).

The equipment I took was a Fuji X-T1, modded Canon 6D, Samyang 135mm and 35mm lenses, and Fornax lightrack II. Unfortunately, at the end I couldn't use the Canon as I found out there that its remote release connector is different, I use a Canon compatible intervallometer for the Fuji, and just assumed it was the same for the 6D. At home I've been using the 6D with the laptop, which I did not take with me to minimise the amount of kit. Learnt the hard way that everything needs to be tested before the trip and assume nothing. Anyway, I was enjoying using the X-T1 / 135mm combo on the Fornax, it was very quick to set up and worked very well. Fast lens meant that max exposure I needed was 2mins, which the fornax coped with easily.

We visited the GTC and was hoping to see one of the other telescopes, but I've messed up the booking and bought tickets for the GTC twice, so that will have to be another time.

Also drove up to the observatories in the evening and was hoping to do some imaging, I unpacked the equipment, but was so cold with strong winds (at some point I had 3 jackets on) that I basically bailed and just did some very wide field shots. The fun bit was when we got too cold and was ready to go down, the car wouldn't start. ? It was around 10pm, nobody around, no moon, so pitch dark. I'm still not sure why the car battery went flat, I run the Fornax off the cigarette lighter socket, but its power consumption could not be the reason. To have voltage in the cigarette lighter, the key had to be turned to ignition on, so I guess in that state something was taking current in the car, we did not have any interior / exterior lights on. We thought we might have to sleep in the car, when after about 20mins I saw a car driving down, jumped in front to ask for help, and the chinese couple inside very kindly helped to push the car to jump start it. This was a major struggle as the parking platform was lower than the road, so the car had to be pushed up the ramp. When the car eventually started I was ready to hug those friendly people but they were in a hurry...

The sunset and the views of the milky way were amazing up there, still I've decided after this adventure that I rather put up with the little light pullution I have on the balkony of the nice warm house and my bed nearby. 

So, overall a few mishaps, but it just means that I definitely have to go back again in the summer, timed so that it coincides with new moon.  

Anyway below are some of the quickly processed images I took, also have some 46P data but haven't managed to process that to give anything decent yet. All processed in Astroart / Gimp, however my processing skills are not very advanced, still need to learn about layers, masking, etc.

 

 

 

ptc1a.jpg

gtc3a.jpg

gtc2.JPG

M36_37_38_1b_31x120s_iso1600.jpg

m45_1b_crop2_19x125s_iso1250.jpg

M42_average1_crop1_80x85s_iso1000.jpg

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I too love the island of La Palma but only go in June and then the temperature is perfect! My first memory of the Island was getting up in the middle of the night during our stay in Puntagorda to discover a band of strong white cloud overhead only to realise a few seconds later that it was the Milky Way in all its glory!

I really like your Orion image - nicely framed.

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Sounds like you had an interesting time :) When you go back if the wind is getting to you where you were (based on the second photo) drive a little further round (half a mile) towards the scopes, there's a couple of spots round there. The wind can be completely gone just a little bit further round and vice versa :) There's a gully near where you were where I swear all the wind off the sea chooses to come flying up!!

We've stayed in Puntagorda each time and I still can't get used to being in a fully lit kitchen at night and stepping out the door and seeing the Milky Way better than from here in the UK when not even dark adapted.

Both times I've been have been August so it's usually been about 15c at night at the top but sometimes very dusty. I think Steve above has the right idea by going in June.

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Thanks for the tip, I'll bear it in mind for next time. Makes you wonder how they deal with dust in those lovely observatories, last thing you'd want is Saharan sand getting into them. I guess they just don't observe on those days.

Another question to people who've been, we were hoping to see some laser beams from the adaptive optics, but there was no sign of them. Are they not used by these observatories, or are they invisible, i.e. IR?

 

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If the dust gets too bad they close up shop - http://www.not.iac.es/weather/index.php - on the top left, if any of the categories get too extreme a note pops up advising them to "Close the Hatches". usually when there's lots of wind or rain. I was up there during a pretty bad calima and the milky way shots I was getting were better than I'd get here. The dust will show up light pollution though - the main towns are only 9-10 miles away as the crow flies...

The Magic telescopes are open to the elements at all times (they're just gert big mirrors). That can't be good for them, maybe they hose them down ones in a while :) 

I never saw a laser directly. One timelapse from my first trip shows a 'star' visible on the timelapse that didn't move with the other stars which I suspect was the result of one of their lasers but I didn't see the beam..

 

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On 06/01/2019 at 15:03, steppenwolf said:

I too love the island of La Palma but only go in June and then the temperature is perfect! My first memory of the Island was getting up in the middle of the night during our stay in Puntagorda to discover a band of strong white cloud overhead only to realise a few seconds later that it was the Milky Way in all its glory!

I really like your Orion image - nicely framed.

Did you get some images of it Steve?

I've not been to La Palma yet but it's high on the list

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15 minutes ago, newbie alert said:

Did you get some images of it Steve?

Unfortunately not, this was a family holiday rather than an astronomy one so I didn't take any kit with me as it would have been too much of a temptation which wouldn't have been fair! ? I did, however, have a great trip up to the observatories and took some photographs of them!

 

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This Puntagorda sounds good... Am I correct in understanding it is in the dark sky area around GTC? Would it be viable to visit the area given that I don't drive?

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Great Stuff, Looks like an awesome time was had ?

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