Can we visit the outer space without leaving Earth? Yes: the islands of Tenerife and La Palma offer the best windows to the Universe.
There is a place in the world where the earthly and the heavenly meet, touch and embrace. A place from which simple mortals become fully aware of the infinite dimension of the Universe. And it is not a place of fantasy, it is not Atlantis or Avalon, but the Canary Islands, authentic “Windows to the Universe” from which you can observe with bare eyes the constellations and the planets or the ancestral mysteries that have accompanied us since immemorial times.
Tenerife and La Palma, in particular, offer a possibility that very few places on Earth are able to offer: spots with an exceptional night sky quality, near the equator, guaranteeing a perfect view of the entire Northern Hemisphere and part of the Southern. Far from tropical storms, its clean, turbulent, oceanstabilized atmosphere ensures perfect visibility on 90 percent of summer nights.
Whether alone, in the company of companies and specialized guides, with binoculars and telescopes, or with visits organized by the fabulous observatories of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) at 2,400 meters above sea level, the sensation of contemplating the cosmos face to face may be one of the most special and indelible ones of the human experience.
ASTRONOMY IN TENERIFE
If the idea is to observe and learn, contemplate the magnificence of the firmament and acquire knowledge of astronomy, Tenerife is the choice. The summits of this island and the Teide National Park are considered among the best places in the world to study the stars.
This is the reason why the IAC Observatory, in which astrophysicists of international reputation work, is located here. The quality of its night skies has been recognized with the Starlight Certificate. This is an initiative seeking to protect the night skies and defend the general right to observe the stars. It was created in 2009 and is sponsored among others by Unesco, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The Teide volcano is the first UNESCO World Heritage Site certified as a Starlight Tourist Destination.
The Cañadas del Teide
Fans will find in the Montaña de Guajara and the surroundings of the Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide the best points of observation within the National Park. Likewise, in La Laguna you can visit the Museo de la Ciencia y el Cosmos (Science and Cosmos Museum), where not only scientific and technical achievements are shown, but this heritage is also preserved and presented, using available means: interactivity, experimentation, and playful environments with real objects and multimedia tools.
The asteroid of La Palma
The most enthusiastic, those who want to get excited about this almost direct contact with outer space, have to take off from the island of La Palma. Completely focused on astro-tourism, the island does not look like an island, but an asteroid lost in the space immensity.
It was one of the pioneer territories to apply the 1998 Skies Act, protecting its firmament against light, atmospheric and radio electric pollution. Almost all island institutions and companies are committed to the promotion of the quality and enjoyment of the sky, both in cultural (archaeo-astronomic remains), scientific (astronomical research), astronomical (observatories and amateur observation), landscape or natural (astronomic viewpoints, routes and paths) and tourism terms, with activities ranging from catering, themed accommodation, guided tours and organization of astronomical events. More than fifty specialized companies, astronomical paths, numerous view-points, rural houses equipped with telescopes and astrophotography contests: to set foot on La Palma is to set foot beyond the last frontier.
ROUTES THROUGH THE TEIDE VIEWPOINTS
In the Teide National Park you can complete a self-guided tour from among seven possible tours, where the relationship between this place, the stars and the planets is shown through various information panels installed in the viewpoints of the Park, which keep an order and configure the route:
1. The Teide and the Sun share a vibrant secret. Minas de San José viewpoint.
2. Landscapes from another planet at your fingertips. Minas de San José viewpoint.
3. When was the Teide volcano formed? Tabonal Negro viewpoint
4. The Tenerife Mountains are on the Moon. Roque García viewpoint.
5. Test territory to search for live signs on Mars. Los Azulejos viewpoint.
6. Would the Teide be a giant on Mars? Llano de Ucanca viewpoint.
7. A catalogue of eruptions in the solar system. Museo Juan Évora Parking.
PARADOR OF LAS CAÑADAS DEL TEIDE
Located at 2,152 meters above sea level and in the heart of the Teide National Park, the Parador is the ideal place for all those lovers of astronomy who wish to spend a few days observing a sky full of stars and free of any kind of pollution.
Every Friday a talk and observation of the sky is organized with astronomical divulgators. The Parador features a Dobson Mount Newtonian Telescope, equipped with a 10-inch (254 mm) diameter mirror and a focal length of 60 inches (1,524 mm) and a Meade Lx10 EMC telescope, equipped with a mirror diameter of 202.2 mm) and a focal length of (20,000 mm).
PARADOR OF LA PALMA
Among the companies of La Palma involved in the global is-land initiative of astro-tourism, is the Parador itself. The G-As-tronomical dinners were part of these initiatives: a menu with shapes and textures of cosmic inspiration, accompanied by an explanation of the stars and, as dessert, an exit to the Parador’s viewpoint to observe the Universe.