Star Stories
Tales from the night sky of Tenerife, brought to you by the guides of the stars!
That was the week that was!
The weekly review from the guides of the dark skies!

Well that’s it for summer now.  With the clocks going back it means dark skies and cosy evenings will be the theme between now and the start of next year’s Summer Time on Sunday 31 March, perhaps the last time the clocks will be put forward in Spain if the EU’s recommendation to keep the clocks on summer time all year round is adopted, as seems quite possible.

It also means that our tours are picking up one hour earlier, so we can still get the beautiful sunsets in from our high-altitude vantage point.  Any of you that follow my blog will realise that weather has been a big feature for us this month.  Yes, even in Tenerife, rare though it is, we sometimes get bad viewing weather.  However, I wanted to talk about that today, amongst other things.  Nearly every day I pick up from hotels in the south and above us is what appears to a mass of black cloud.  If you didn’t know and looked up after traveling from the UK, you would be convinced that it was about to chuck it down with rain!   Local knowledge is key though.  Most cloud formations in Tenerife are below 2000meters.  We watch sunset at 2100meters.  It has given us some spectacular vistas this month. It even feels like you can walk out on the cloud, not that I recommend trying that.  Unfortunately, with Venus being so low on the horizon at sunset it means we don’t get to see it at the minute nor Mercury that we saw earlier in the year.  However, we can still get a quick look at Jupiter before it drops and are still having some great views of Mars and Saturn.

I’ve never seen so many stars until now….

99% of the time we are above the clouds by sunset.  As the sun disappears and the temperature drops a little, we experience what is called the inversion layer.  A wave of cold air that pushes the clouds down at night.  Even this week we experienced some sleet up the mountain but only for five minutes and as quick as it arrived the cloud was pushed back down opening the night sky to reveal the amazing starry sky and the core of the milkyway.  Now I understand why my mother always told me patience is a virtue.   I remember my first time in the national park of Tenerife at night.  The sky dominated by the towering mount Teide volcano and the walls of the caldera and looking up and being amazed.  Saying to myself, “I’ve never seen so many stars”.  Even now I am still in ore of the sky up there and as the year moves on its great to see new constellations appearing as the old ones fade into the horizon.

Just as a bit of interesting information for my readers, I though I would mention a few news items that caught the eye this week from around Tenerife.  Apparently, the new hotel in Golf Del Sur opens its doors tomorrow.  It’s the latest in the Bahia Principe group and the first Fantasia themed hotel in Spain.  Designed around a castle look it will have over 300 rooms and is to be of 5* quality.  However, if my last visit to the area is anything to go on, then its still more building site than 5*?  However, families are supposed to be entering the hotel from tomorrow so lets see.

Another item of news that caught my eye was about Tenerifes Wacka Wacka bird.  We are most familiar with the Cory’s Shearwaters – the “wacka wacka birds” – in Spring, when their distinctive call is heard as they return south from their winter migration. It’s this time of the year, however, when this endangered species, called the Pardela here in the Canaries, is most at risk, and none are more in peril than the chicks making their first flights and becoming disoriented and, at night, being dazzled by the lights of buildings on the coast.  Each year there is a campaign to help them, with environmentalists, police, and bomberos often making difficult rescues of birds who quite regularly get stuck in the wire netting used along roads and cliffs to prevent rockfall while trying to take shelter. Some are found more mundanely in balconies and terraces of apartments, or public gardens or walkways, always near the coast, and once they reach the ground they find it difficult to regain the air because being cliff nesting birds they need to launch themselves into flight from elevated points.  Moreover, apart from being unable to fly off when they land on the ground, they also then run the extra risk posed by predators.  This birds call, when I first heard it, I mistook for a child to be playing with some sort of hooter.  I have never seen one myself but imagine a kind of cartoon bird with a hotter for a beak.  I for one will be keeping an eye out for any endangered ones, or just for my first glimpse of one anyway.

Well there we go; another week has passed on the Island of Tenerife and with the change of the clocks I am looking forward to longer dark skies in the national park.  Sorry if you were hoping for some more incites into the world of astronomy but as you will notice with this blog we like to keep you on your toes.  One week talking about the theory of general relativity and the next about the Wacka Wacka Bird.  Look back next week when I am hoping to have another blog from our resident Astrophotographer Peter Louer.

So until next time, this is Stargazing Tenerife team signing out, live long and prosper!

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