Roque de los Muchachos Observatory

(redirected from Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos)

Roque de los Muchachos Observatory

(ro -kay day loss moo-chah -choss) An international observatory on La Palma in the Canary Islands, sited at an altitude of 2400 meters, where the observing conditions are superb. It was set up in 1979 by an international agreement involving the UK, Denmark, Spain (which owns the site), and Sweden; the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland joined with the UK and share its telescopes. The observatory was ceremonially inaugurated in 1985.

The responsibility for running the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory lies with the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Institute of Astrophysics of the Canaries, IAC), which also operates the Teide Observatory on Tenerife. The two observatories together, along with associated technical facilities provided by the IAC on Tenerife and the planned Common Center for Astrophysics on La Palma, constitute the European Northern Observatory. About 60 institutions from 19 countries currently have telescopes and other instruments there.

The Isaac Newton Group, owned and funded by the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), is the largest collection of telescopes at the observatory. It includes the 4.2-meter William Herschel Telescope, which began regular operations in 1987; the completely refurbished 2.5-meter Isaac Newton Telescope; and a 1-meter reflector, the Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope, specially designed for photometry and wide-field photography. The latter two began operations at their present location in 1984. So too did the Carlsberg Meridian Telescope, a telescope used for precision astrometry and operated jointly by institutions from Denmark, Spain, and the UK. Additional instruments include the 16-m Swedish solar tower, a high-resolution solar telescope operational since 1983, and the 2.5-m Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT), with azimuthal mounting, that began regular operations in 1989.

The observatory has also been selected as the site for some new-generation telescopes, including the Italian Galileo National Telescope (Telescopio Nazionale Galileo, completed in 1997), with a 3.5-m meniscus primary mirror controlled by active optics, and the Dutch Open Telescope, an innovative solar telescope with a 45-centimeter primary mirror housed in a 15-meter-high open tower and used for high-resolution solar imaging simultaneously in multiple wavelengths, which was installed in 1996 and saw first light in 1997.

In return for necessary services, Spanish astronomers have 20% of available time on each telescope. International projects take up some of each telescope's time.

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