La Palma observatory fights volcanic dust

La Palma's observatory is getting an upgrade

to protect itself from volcanic dust

as the Cumbre Vieja volcano continues to wreak havoc on the island

LOCATION: La Palma, Spain

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ROQUE DE LOS MUCHACHOS ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY ADMINISTRATOR, JUAN CARLOS PEREZ ARENCIBIA, SAYING:“The first measure is to close the telescopes when there is a risk of ash at the observatory. But there are telescopes that do not have this protection; we will look at them in detail later to find out how they are protected because they are telescopes designed to work outdoors.”

Minimal light pollution around La Palma

usually makes it an ideal site for astronomical observation

But the observatory is situated 10 miles from the eruption site

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) OBSERVATORY TECHNICAL COORDINATOR, VICTOR ACCIARI, SAYING:“The consequences are that this ash will fall on our mechanical structures. It is not protected by a dome like the optical telescopes, so it affects the engines, chains, gears and all this prevents us from being able to operate at night. We had to improvise a little, some kind of protection, the telescope is not made to be protected in this way because it is robust anyway, we had to cover the most delicate parts, especially the gearboxes and the parts covered in grease, with plastic film and bags, and try to hold it as tight as possible because of the wind at this altitude.”

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