First time astrophotography on La Palma with my own equipment – failed

Astrophotography on La Palma

Astrophotography on La Palma

Weather forecast - Clear sky on La Palma.

Well… I like the moon… but… YEAH! He is gone! Time for astrophotography on La Palma 🙂 For this purpose I rent a VW Caddy here on La Palma. The plan: Put all the equipment and my girlfriend into the Caddy and drive up to Mirador del Jable – a quite popular place for watching the stars. One last look at the weather forecast from aemet… Looks quite promising! Even though it is almost impossible to predict the weather on La Palma. Furthermore, hdmeteo can be helpful to get an idea of the current weather conditions on the island. And last but not least the NOT webcam can give another impression. The decision has been made – tonight will be astro-night!

About thirty minutes before twilight – already a little late – all the equipment has been loaded into the Caddy and we are ready to go. Also the thermos jug with hot tea should not be missed. The open street map below shows our destination for tonight. From Los Llanos to Mirador del Jable it is just a 30 minute drive. So let’s go!

When we arrive at Mirador del Jable, a guided Astro-Tour has just begun. From up here one has a great view down to El Paso and Los Llanos. We left the car to get a first impression of the conditions – and surprise surprise – there were quite strong gusts of wind from the east. For my equipment without any further wind protection astrophotography is not possible under those conditions. Damn! At least I took a photo of the tremendous view. But what to do now? Just drive back home and go to bed? No way! What we have learnt so far is that the wind conditions on La Palma can be very different depending on the exact location. I am just a little worried about the seeing condition…

Luckily we had a backup plan. Just about 10 minutes away from Mirador del Jable exists another astronomical viewpoint – Mirador Llano de Las Ventas. This viewpoint is also shown on the map above. It is already on the east side of the island and one has a great view down to Santa Cruz de La Palma. In addition it is a little more protected by rocks and trees. So we decided to give it a try. When we arrived there was NO wind – not even a little. At this moment I could not suppress a big grin 😀

Setting up the equipment and alignment took about 45 minutes. Polar alignment was straightforward since Polaris was visible. The next step was focusing the camera… what on earth…?! First I thought there is a problem with my focuser. But instead the seeing was really terrible. It was so bad that I couldn’t believe it at first. Why haven’t I checked that before the whole alignment procedure?? The best I was able to achieve with my 8″ Newton telescope was about 5.3 arcseconds – near the zenith. The worst was about 8 arcseconds. As far as I can remember this is one of the worst seeing conditions I have ever had so far. In fact that means no astrophotograpy tonight.

Silently we sat together drinking our tea and staring into the dark night. My disappointment vanished after a while. Even if all the high tech was more or less useless at the moment – it was still so great to see this beautiful sky. And again I came to the conclusion that the computer stuff often draws too much of my attention and I should not take imaging too serious 🙂

Clear skies!

Last updated: July 23, 2022 at 12:43 pm

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