Visiting the Tenerife, the largest from the Canary Islands was one of the best adventures. Among a several days, when I could scout this picturesque place I spent one night above the unique low level clouds. It was a fantastic experience, because I have not seen that pristine sky before.
The day, when I set my observation place could have look much different. We planned to stay in the Refugio Atlavista hut straight after reaching the Mount Teide summit. Unfortunately around 3 weeks before our arrival a huge snow thunderstorms swept through the Teide caldera. As I remember from some pictures there was around 50 cm snow cover near Teide cable car upper station.
In general snow cover existed from around 2000 m.a.s.l. altitude that time. Despite of the Sun, that shines very strong the temperature on the highest altitudes is not high. There was around 0-3 degrees during the day and light freeze overnight. Once we came to the Tenerife the Mount Teide was still snow-capped especially on western slope. I had a hope, that in spite of many patches of snow the trail to summit will be open. It happened the worst, that could happen. Once we came on the Teide by cable car there were a bans and a few guards. The entrance on a trail both to the summit and to the Refugio Altavista hut was forbidden. Due to those circumstances we had to call off our reservation in the hut and find another place to “sleep” that night. Anyway looking for the island from there it could have feel like during flightseeing being outside the plane! This place contains around 1/3 flight altitude. Simply awesome!
Because of snow and irritating rules in Teide National Park our trip plan has been brought up. I was not happy for that, trying to find another way how to get to the Refugio Altavista by hike. On top of that the car park located close to the trail leading to the hut via Montana Blanca was completely full.I was not happy for visiting Teide Observatory on the same day. I would rather to enjoy amazing view from Teide summit, smell the sulfur from the volcano and visit observatory next day. We were not lucky that day at all. Being en route to Teide Observatory I hit a small stone, that caused flat tyre. After that I replaced the wheel and had to go to the Europcar rental located on the Tenerife North airport. Fortunately it was according our route.
We reached the Teide Observatory around 5 pm, more or less 1,5 hour before sunset. I was fortunate to visit the Observatory area. The man, who met me on the road behind the ban led me stay there for 20 minutes only. It was enough for me to take pictures and enjoy the view. I can admit, that this place is really nice. There is a dozen or so objects, that belongs to several countries in the World. To be straightforward this observatory is said to be one of three the best located astronomical observatories in the World after the Atacama and Mauna Kea observatories. The key attitude for this place is altitude, that incurs clear sky for most of the year, because the cloud coverage is usually beneath. The observatory is located around 2400 m.a.s.l. slightly higher than neighbour observatory in La Palma island. This place provides an excellent conditions to gazing stars. The atmosphere on this altitude is more rare.
The Teide Observatory has been launched in 1964. Actually on the observatory area is located 4 solar, 8 nocturnal and 4 radio telescopes.
Saying a few words about the Teide Observatory it is good to mention, that all objects are white. In effects they have as highest albedo as they can, all sunlight is reflected. It prevents from unsettled air movements, that could have bad influence on the observation results. Basically this observatory complex is focused on radial and solar observations. One of the objects is a telescope from the Institute of Astronomy University of Cambridge, which has been installed here rexently. Those initiatives stress the International range of this complex.
I don’t want elaborate more about the Teide observatory. You can read more here.
I would like to describe my personal observation carried out literally next to the Teide Observatory complex. We spent this night in our car! The temperature was really low, finally dropped to around -5 at the dawn I think. Besides the patched snow cover still existed. My girlfriend stayed in the car. I was strongly determined to have a great stargazing adventure.
I started my observation around 20 minutes before sunset. When Sun plunged deeper into evening sky the Mount Teide casted a beautiful shadow across the island, that subsequently covered further and further reaching the cloud layer above the ocean. It was beautiful. Because I have not seen it before in my life I was gazing and taking the pictures. After the sunset this shadow covered the lowest part of the sky making a different colour of civil wedge, that was separated by triangle-looking figure. It was great!
Observation the twilight with all phenomenas was the one, which I was aimed at. I was gonna to collect some stuff from the high-altitude conditions. The twilight was short, that is typical for lower latitudes. Afterwards I was watching a fantastic zodiacal light, also for the first time.
During this overnight staying in the vicinity of the Teide Observatory I was wondering about an excellent sky with approximately 7k stars to be seen by naked eye! The artifical light were seen just above the horizon, that was partially covered by clouds. Moreover the lights from Gran Canaria were also visible.
Unfortunately my equipment was really poor. I had a compact digital camera only – Canon Powershoot SX 130 IS, that allowed me to gain pictures with ISO 1600, F3.5 and 15s. In spite of lack of proper equipment I was able to cover the constellations not possible to see from Poland or United Kingdom like whole Scorpius, Corona Australis, Centaurus, Kil, Vela, etc. The biggest success was to see the northern part of the Crux constellation, that rises just above the horizon. I saw the Agena star (situated next to the Toliman star) also.
This is possible from there due to atmospheric refraction and an drop the horizon. The Crux was visible before 4.30 am.
Last part of my observation was the dawn. I was concentrated to determine the proper moments of twilight, when light density changes and allows us e.g for seeing the stars, objects or reading the books. This beautiful dawn occurred since around 6.05 am after the weak zodiacal light covered by cirrus clouds. I could spot some thin layer of light, when Sun was jet 20 degrees below the horizon! The atmosphere was really clear.
When Sun was 10 degrees below the horizon I was able to read the text without using torch, that was amazing! However I had to set my peace of paper a front of the dawn glow.
Subsequently next parts of the dawn was also stunning. When Sun was 8 degrees below the horizon I spotted a first sunlight on the cirrus cloud far away above the horizon (probably above western Sahara!).
Thereafter I was trying to capture 28 days old crescent Moon, that rose shortly before the sunrise. That was a day before total solar eclipse in Indonesia, so I though, that more than 20 hours before it the Moon will be visible. I didn’t spot it neither on site by naked eye nor on my photos afterwards. Possibly it was gone behind some patches of cirrus clouds, that covered the eastern sky partially.
Seeing the Teide summit like a stone throw away I spotted a red light on the very top. That was the sunrise! Around 2,5 minutes before Sun was seen from my position. Meanwhile clouds rise up and drifted a front of the mountain making a beautiful gloria!
Right after the sunrise we left that cold place and headed for our next destination –car rental on Tenerife North airport.
If I will have opportunity to back to the Tenerife I will definitely choose summer or autumn term, free of snow and carry out those observations again with much better equipment. I think, that some total lunar eclipse would be a great option to visit the Mount Teide again and cover it from my original destination – Refugio Altavista mountain hut.
Teide Observatory – guide