Tenerife – Goodnight!

Every now and then MBH surprises me. There, I’ve said it! She has this gift of planning something for us and then casually dropping the surprise like a mini Candy Crush ™️ blast. The effect is wonderful and it’s just one of the reason that I love her so much.

So? Goodnight? What am I going on about? A little while before we came out here MBH dropped a surprise on me. She had arranged for us to go on a ‘stargazing’ tour on (or at least near) the Teide volcano. Now I’m fascinated by volcanoes and big hills and Teide is arguably the most fascinating volcano in the world. If measured from the ocean floor, it is at 7,500 m (24,600 ft) the highest volcano in the world base-to-peak outside of the Hawaiian Islands

I’m not going to go on much about it, you can find all about it easily online, like here. Just that this massive volcano, the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic, sits in the basin of an extinct volcano one hundred times the size and which comprises the island of Tenerife itself. Up there, in the rarefied atmosphere, you can actually see the Milky Way as it should be seen. The scale of things is deceptive. When I first came here twenty or more years ago I brought my walking boots and announced that I would walk up Teide the next day. My realisation that it would take at least a week to get to the bottom of Teide came embarrassingly hard.

Pico Viejo shortly before sunset

I also made the mistake of assuming that Teide was the only active volcano in the caldera which is Tenerife. Close by is the peak of Pico Viejo which is also active. I just took a look at the volcano index and it suggests an almost daily earthquake on the island. Teide is overdue to erupt, running a cycle of around 100 years and the last eruption was in 1909.

The Stargazing Tour

We were picked up promptly outside our apartment and joined half a dozen other people on the excursion. The 40km drive took little time, fascinated as we were by the views down into the clouds and the vast volcanic lava fields. We met two other vehicles at a pre-arranged point to make up the small group of up to 25. A trio of tour coaches arrived to swell the population and we were all handed flutes of champagne to salute the sunset.

The sun falling onto La Gomera

In the meantime, Margus, the tour leader, set up a couple of telescopes to view the sun as it headed towards the horizon. Both set with polarised filters we could see the solar flares easily.

The Sun – solar flare at roughly 4 o’clock

We headed off deeper into the wilderness of the caldera, the temperature dropped immediately as the sun disappeared. Within a few minutes we arrived at the Paradores Hotel where the guides had arranged a light meal and warm drinks. A beautiful place we had visited before in the daytime.

From there we were back in the buses and a couple of minutes later we were decanted into a large parking area where the guides began erecting three large scopes for our ‘observations ‘. Margus took us through the night sky, describing constellations and the legends behind them. Eventually we used the scopes to find Sirius, the Pleiades, some juvenile nebulæ and finally our own satellite, the moon. Fantastic experience and then to be delivered right back at our apartment was wonderful.

The moon, taken on an iPhone 6

Good Night!, goodnight!

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