Every clear night, we look to the stars from our observatory at Hotel Rangá. With virtually no light pollution, this is one of the best places in Iceland to see the heaven in all its glory — the stars, the Moon, the planets and of course, the northern lights.
The observatory stands about 150 meters east of the hotel. Red light poles guide people into the small house that keep the computerised telescopes away from the forces of nature.
With the push of a button, the roof rolls off, revealing the universe above. The high walls shelter us from the cold wind. Around 20 people gaze up at the Milky Way in all its glory. Some of our guests have never seen so many stars.
We’re always looking back in time when we look up at the stars.
The astronomer starts by telling people about the three telescopes. The largest one is a big reflector, used to see faint and faraway objects, some many millions of light years away. The other two are refractors of the highest quality offering crystal clear and tack-sharp views of nebulas, star clusters, the Moon and planets.
Next, we turn our attention to the stars above us. With the unaided eye, we can see roughly 2500 stars. All of them are part of the Milky Way. The closest ones are less than 25 light years away, others perhaps 2000 light years away. Some are big and bright and far away — others are smaller and fainter, but closer to us.
The stars are suns, just like our sun, just very far away. So far away in fact that we have to measure their distance using light years. The light from them take years to traverse the space between them and us. We’re always looking back in time when we look up at the stars. We never see the stars as they look like right now.