The island of La Palma
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La Palma

La Palma and
Location of the ObservatoryLA PALMA is situated at the north-west of the Canarian archipelago, which is an autonomous region of Spain, a few hundred kilometres from the coast of north-west Africa. Shaped like a stone-age axe, La Palma is one of the smaller Canary Islands, with a surface area of 706 sq km and a population of 80,000. It is unusually steep in relation to its size, rising sharply out of the sea. A ridge runs down the centre of the island from north to south, and the entire mountain range exceeds 2,000 m in altitude. The highest point on the island is the Roque de Los Muchachos (2,426 m), the location of the Observatory.

The island's climate is sunny, but with moderate temperatures all the year round at sea-level. The cool north-easterly Canary current and trade-winds keep the island cooler than one might expect given the latitude. On the mountain top, however, there is greater seasonal variation of temperature, from 18°C in summer to 3°C in winter. Despite occasional extreme conditions in winter, the telescopes are operational throughout the year.

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Last modified: 13 December 2010