All of my previous dark-sky expeditions were organized in summer-autumn part of the year. At this part of the year shines the galactic core of the Milky Way during the night (only if the sky is dark enough) and there are many deep space objects available. During my expedition to Milos I managed to capture huge part of the Messier catalogue. However, there are some deep space objects, which are badly visible from my home and which have to be captured in the spring. I was researching where can I spend few days, preferably somewhere south and even more preferably under dark skies. Googling yielded in brilliant idea – La Palma, Canary Islands. This island belongs to three most prominent spots on Earth for astronomy (together with Mauna Kea in Hawaii and European Southern Observatory in Chile). The observatory on La Palma is called Roque de los Muchachos and currently there is the largest optical, single aperture telescope on this Planet (The Gran Telescopio Canarias). The observatory is built on the highest mountain of the island at altitude nearly 2500 meters above the sea level. On the whole island there are strict rules for the street illumination, therefore the dark skies are not the privilege of the highest mountains, but nearly everywhere are the conditions great, maybe except two big towns – Santa Cruz de La Palma and Los Llanos. Dark sky is probably the same touristic attraction on La Palma like the beaches on Greek islands.

Theoretically La Palma should be a paradise for astrophotographers. How was it in the reality? Well, I was not lucky at all with the weather. I got only one clear night out of ten. During the day it was nice and sunny, but nearly every evening the clouds rolled in and I was able to photograph only dark clouds. According the weather statistics there should be only one rainy day in May on La Palma. Moreover, cloud cover should be present only 30% of the month, rest should be sunny. Hmm, probably we hit the 30% spot in the calendar.

On the other hand, the island is beautiful and offers many other activities, like hiking, whale watching, sightseeing etc. People are friendly, nature breathtaking, food delicious and vine excellent. From this point of view it was fantastic. In the end I was able to capture two deep space objects, which have very low southern declination (not far from horizon) if observed from Central Europe. Specifically, they were M68 globular cluster in constellation Hydra and M83 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy also in constellation Hydra. These two objects were on my “must capture” list, so in the end it was not so bad.

Roque de los Muchachos
Roque de los Muchachos
The Gran Telescopio Canarias
MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov) telescope
Typical evening weather on La Palma in May
Volcán Teneguía
Volcán Teneguía

Puerto de Sto. Domingo
Salinas de Fuencaliente
Mirador de las Mimbreras