Seeing Stars
The Teide Observatory

Seeing stars

You may or may not know that the Canary Islands are famous for three main things. One is that they are a popular tourist destination, especially for the English in winter. Five million tourists visit annually and the port at Tenerife is one of the most visited cruise ship destinations in Europe. The second is that they are the original home of canaries, even though the islands are in fact named after dogs (canines) and the birds then named after the islands. The third is that the islands have remarkably dark and cloudless skies combined with high mountains that make them ideal for astronomy.

Dark sky

There are several major international observatories on the islands and legislation is in place to try to prevent light pollution. Along with some sites in Chile and Novia Scotia, the Canary Islands have been certified as ‘Starlight Reserves’ – places dedicated to preserving dark skies – by UNESCO and the Institute of Astrophysics. So it’s no surprise that in the city of Puerto de la Cruz on Tenerife that 6000 new LED streetlights direct the light straight to the ground and emit minimal blue light to keep any ‘sky glow’ as low as possible.

Balancing act

Puerto de la Cruz is just 40 kilometres away from the Teide Observatory and has to balance the competing demands of tourism and the mandated requirement to keep the sky dark. The mayor of Puerto de la Cruz , Lope Afonso, says “For astronomers and those who enjoy starlit nights, the quality of our skies is second to none. We want to preserve this precious resource and at the same time make our streets even safer for citizens and tourists. This latest technology meets the needs of local observatories and will also help us to reduce the electricity we use for public lighting by around 65 per cent, while providing us with options for future smart city services.”

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