Roque de los Muchachos Observatory – La Palma, Spain - Atlas Obscura

Roque de los Muchachos Observatory

This mountaintop observatory is home to one of the world's largest reflective telescopes. 


Spread out across a volcanic peak in the Canary Islands is the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory which holds the second best spot to gaze at the stars in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as the largest single-aperture telescope.

The observatory was first opened in 1979 after the massive Isaac Newton Telescope was moved to the top of the mountain in La Palma from Royal Greenwich Observatory in London. The facility was created as a multi-national effort with representatives from Spain, Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom all sharing the space. As the decades rolled on, the uniquely clear bit of sky, thanking in large part to how remote the island is, continued to draw equipment and resources and eventually grew to be one of the most technologically well-equipped sites in the Northern Hemisphere. The observatory is not only perfect for viewing the night sky, but also for observing solar phenomenon during the day. 

It was not until 2007 when the giant Gran Telescopio Canarias (the Great Telescope of the Canaries), shortened to GranTeCán, was finally fired up, putting the observatory on the map. The giant reflecting telescope uses mirrors to capture reflective light to investigate the stars. The telescope was funded by a conglomerate of countries that share usage of the telescope for percentages of time based on their financial input to the project.

Time with the telescope can be requested by universities, although the process is complicated by the competing needs of the many projects and the long planning time required to view certain objects and events.

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