The Stars Come Out at The Parc Astronomic Montsec - Centre d’Observacio de l’Univers - Spain / by JD Andrews

 Observatori Astronòmic del Montsec (OAdM) represents the scientific side of the Parc Astronòmic Montsec (PAM)

I've never seen a telescope that big or this many stars in the night sky...

It was a perfect night during the Catalunya experience to see the stars, clear and very dark. Of course I have seen stars (I look up) but I've never seen so many.

It's all a result of the surrounding area contributing to the "dark sky" using very low light bulbs when needed or turning the lights off completely.

*The main instrument in the telescope is a wide-angle CCD camera. The OAdM is also equipped with a broadband communications system, two automated meteorological stations, a GPS system, a storm detector, a rain detector and a cloud monitor for evaluating the state of the sky. This means that the OAdM needs to be able to operate completely autonomously, with a robotically-operated telescope.

*The OAdM is located in the municipality of Sant Esteve de la Sarga (Pallars Jussà), to the east of the summit of La Corona of Montsec d'Ares at an altitude of 1,570 metres above sea level. The OAdM comprises the observatory building, a service building and a 6.15 metre diameter dome containing the Joan Oró Telescope. This is a robotic telescope with a diameter of 80 cm - the largest and most technologically advanced in Catalonia - and can be controlled from anywhere in the world via the Internet.

*The Parc Astronòmic Montsec (PAM) is an initiative of the Catalan government, through the Consorci del Montsec, to take advantage of the capabilities and potential of the Montsec region to develop scientific research, training and outreach activities, particularly in the field of Astronomy.

*Various scientific studies have agreed on the suitability of this location, and it was concluded that Montsec is a unique spot in Catalonia for installing a professional astronomy facility and an astronomical education and outreach centre such as the Parc Astronòmic Montsec.

*The Eye of Montsec is an exceptional multimedia facility consisting of a multimedia digital planetarium which recreates the current sky as well as those of any other period and also shows films in the full dome screen format, allowing visitors to appreciate aspects other than purely astronomical ones, projected onto a 12-metre diameter dome.

With capacity for around 70 people, the Montsec Eye is equipped with highly advanced audiovisual equipment comprising seven audiovisual projectors and a 7.1 sound system controlled by complex computer systems. This makes it an incomparable screening room which is capable of recreating total-immersion virtual environments.

Thanks to its retractable dome and front wall, the Montsec Eye gives viewers an uninterrupted view of the sky above Montsec which is almost totally free of atmospheric light pollution. This direct observation is accompanied by the images obtained by a 30-centimetre diameter telescope installed in the same room, which displays the images on small TFT screens in the seating area.

*The low rainfall (less than 500 mm per year), moderate humidity and high percentage of cloudless nights are particularly important in making this such an ideal location. Image quality tests have proved that the altitude above sea level and its considerable distance from the Mediterranean coast give the location the required stability.

*The Parc Astronòmic Montsec (PAM) is located in the Montsec mountain range straddling the counties of La Noguera and Pallars Jussà in the province of Lleida. The PAM is made up of two main facilities: the Centre d’Observació de l’Univers (COU) and the Observatori Astronòmic del Montsec (OAdM)