The Observatório do Lago Alqueva – OLA, is the first astronomical Observatory of the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve. It is located next to Monsaraz Village, at the center of the region which is far from the large urban centers and exists in a less light polluted area of the country.
It mostly attracts tourists families, schools, amateur astronomers and astrophotographers. It offers facilities like Astrophotography to amateur astronomers, promotes meetings, workshops and conferences. The observatory provides astronomical equipment such as Solar Telescopes, a Dobson, a Ritchey-Chrétien, an apochromatic refractor. The participants can also use their own equipment in the observatory with access to electrical power.
The visit of the observatory can be done in two sessions, the afternoon session and the night session. The afternoon sessions offer people the opportunity to use the telescope to discover the Sun and find its solar spots and prominences. They can learn how to build a primitive kind of clock using shadows provided by the sun. There’s also the opportunity to learn how to find the time and the day of the year from the Sun´s height. Moreover, the night sessions offer a tour of the Dark Sky Reserve for the people who visit it. They can learn how to find the North by the help of the polar star. Furthermore, they will be able to find the age of the stars by their color. It provokes the visitor to observe the stars, clusters, nebulas and understand the various patterns of the star that forms a constellation. They can also observe the distant galaxies using advanced telescope.
The observatory is certified by the starlight foundation and supported by UNESCO, UNWTO and the Canary Astrophysical Institute. It promotes the region with the attraction of expert tourist ever year. Because this zone is free from light pollution, we can view maximum number of stars in clear nights (16800 stars), whereas in light polluted areas like Lisbon we can only see a small amount of stars (50 stars).
To sum up, the Observatório do Lago Alqueva will exist to promote the knowledge about the importance of seeing the universe and provide the opportunity to stargaze.