Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory
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Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory

AT A SPECTACULAR location on the remote island of La Palma, to the west of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, is to be found the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. This international collection of telescopes is situated over 2,400 m above sea-level, near the highest of the peaks surrounding the Caldera de Taburiente - an extinct volcano that is now a national park. The observatory is dedicated to astronomical observations, and the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING) is the largest organisation working at the site.

The observatory covers an area of about 2 sq km and is reached by a winding 40 km mountain road from the town of Santa Cruz de La Palma. The site was chosen after an extensive search for a location with clear, dark skies all the year round. All tests proved that the Roque is one of the best astronomical sites in the world. The remoteness of the island and its lack of urban development ensure that the night sky at the observatory is free from artificial light pollution. The continued quality of the night is protected by law. The mountain-top site has a remarkably stable atmosphere, owing to the local topography. The mountain has a smooth convex contour facing the prevailing northerly wind and the air-flow is comparatively undisturbed, allowing sharp and stable images of the night sky. The site is clear of cloud for 90 per cent of the time in the summer months.

of the Observatory Site

The observatory was established under a series of international agreements in 1979, and was inaugurated in 1985. The observatory is operated under the auspices of the local astronomical organisation, the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, which also runs the Teide Observatory on Tenerife.

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Last modified: 13 December 2010