Friday, September 29, 2017

The Milky Way Over Teide National Park

If you were in one of the best stargazing locations in the world for just one night and could spend it either stargazing or doing astrophotography, which would you pick? Stargazing seems like the obvious choice, unless, like me, you've spent months dreaming up cool astrophotography projects, all the while stuck in a cloudy, light-polluted metropolis.

When Anasua and I went to the island of Tenerife last spring, we booked a parador (a government hotel halfway up Mount Teide, in the middle of the otherwise uninhabited Teide National Park) for not one but two nights, thereby avoiding this dilemma. Or so we thought.

We spent the first night stargazing. Orion set over the Roques de Garcia in a cloudless, moonless sky. At midnight, Jupiter, not long past opposition, shone like a miniature sun. A few straggling Lyrid meteors crisscrossed the heavens, like a curtain-raiser for the Milky Way which filled the southern sky before dawn.

The Milky Way, for my money, is by far the most dramatic naked-eye object in the night sky. But we were lucky enough to have the hotel's Dobsonian telescope all to ourselves, which gave us a closer look at Jupiter, Saturn and a couple of deep-sky objects.

The second night, which I had earmarked for astrophotography, turned out to be cloudy – something that's apparently uncommon in Tenerife, especially at high altitudes. I did not get a single good photo that night. But if I had to do it all over again, I think I would still spend the first night stargazing. Besides, just before we packed up and went to sleep at 6 am, I did sneakily take one single shot of the Milky Way.

Move your cursor over the image (or long-touch on mobile) to see labels: constellations are in blue; planets and deep-sky objects are in pink. Click for a high-res version.