At the top of Mount Teide (a volcano) in Tenerife stands the Teide Observatory. It is an astronomical observatory operated by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias.

At what feels like the top of the world stands a peculiar building. Why? Helioseismology, or the study of the sound waves of the sun (analogous to seismology, the study of earthquakes), so that we may gain a better understanding of the sun’s interior.

Also there is the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Optical Ground Station (OGS). At 2400 m above sea level one of its main objectives is to conduct research on communication between satellites in the optical wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum (ultraviolet, visible and infrared, and sometimes said to include x- and gamma rays).

Another of its core research areas is the monitoring of space debris in the Geostationary Orbit and the Geostationary Transfer Orbit. There is a surprisingly large amount of man-made junk in orbiting our planet: decommissioned satellites for example. These objects and fragments pose a risk to working satellites, and perhaps more importantly, to our astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS).

The third main use of the OGS is for observations of the night sky: basic astronomical research.
However, when I was given the opportunity to visit an experiment was being conducted, one that did not involve the OGS’ 1 m aperture telescope. Instead tests were conducted to improve the communication between the ground and satellites: our atmosphere is a major obstacle to optimizing data transmissions in the optical part of the spectrum.