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When night falls, a dark, pearly blanket of stars descends upon the island. This is the moment to look skyward and let the spectacle steal away the hours until dawn. Here, fans of universe watching are in luck as the skies over Gran Canaria are among the cleanest and clearest in Europe.

They’re out there and never fail to show, but normally we don’t see them. Light pollution or clouds usually prevent us from enjoying the stars that appear every night. In Gran Canaria, however, this is not a problem, thanks to a series of factors: firstly, the trade winds and resulting temperature inversion stop clouds forming; also, the skies are safeguarded by the Astronomical Observatories Quality Protection Law, which means that light, radio electric and atmospheric contamination is limited and flight routes are regulated so that nothing interferes with star gazing.

Aside from all of this, another phenomenon occurs in Gran Canaria, baptised by local residents as “the donkey’s belly,” which turns the highest peaks on the island into first-rate observation points. It happens when clouds gather no higher than 500m above sea level and block out light from the city, reducing contamination even further and making it even easier to search out those stars.

There are two places on the island which seem to have been designed especially for star gazing.

The first is Llanos de Garañon, a 1,700m-high natural plateau to the south east of the capital. From there, looking south east and particularly on spring nights, it is possible to see large groups of brightly shining stars. Gemini, Auriga, Taurus and Orion can be perfectly made out. The second spot is the Roque Saucillo Astronomical Observatory, 21km from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, complete with its cutting edge telescope to bring us even closer to the sky. Here, if you look east early in the night, an enormous square stands out in the sky: it is the central section of the Pegasus constellation. We can also see the Milky Way, and constellations like Cassiopeia with its typical letter M shape, or others such as Pisces.

Whether you’re an avid astronomer or an absolute novice, this phenomenon deserves a sleepless night. What’s more, you don’t need a telescope to enjoy star gazing; a pair of decent binoculars and a sky map (you now have plenty of user-friendly mobile apps too) is plenty good enough.

Which is why more and more people are deciding to make a night in the open part of their travel plans. You can arrange it independently or join one of the guided activities organised by the observatories.

Undoubtedly, conditions on the island, with its clear skies and practically non-existent light pollution, make this the perfect location to take in the universe at night. A star gazing tourist destination, where an observatory visit is near compulsory. Just like stopping off somewhere on Gran Canaria to contemplate the sky at night.

 

Photos: The Collector of Instants with CC license.