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Why La Palma ?

Credit: Nik Szymanek and Ian King.

The island of La Palma is a remarkable mixture of sandy beaches, deserts, tropical forests, pine forests and volcanic mountains, all crammed into an island that is just 60 miles long and 20 miles wide. It is also one of the best places on Earth to locate an astronomical telescope, for the following reasons:

  • Because it is close to Africa, the weather is much better than in the UK.
  • There are no street lights for a miles around, so the sky is very dark at night.
  • The island has a large mountain (twice the height of Ben Nevis) so the telescope can be put high up in the atmosphere, above most of the cloud layers and where it has less atmosphere to look through.
  • All the water around the island keeps the air above the mountain very stable, so stars twinkle much less.

In fact, the island is so good for astronomy, that many of the world's best telescopes are also on the mountain. However, the Liverpool Telescope is the only one that is robotic.

Because most are non-robotic, astronomers from around the world have to travel to La Palma to use them. This means that they had to build an astronomer hotel on top of the mountain - one of the few hotels in the world designed for guests that sleep during the day and stay up all night.

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