EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 483, Number 2, May IV 2008
Page(s) 651 - 659
Section Astronomical instrumentation
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20078372
Published online 19 March 2008

A&A 483, 651-659 (2008)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20078372

El Roque de Los Muchachos site characteristics

III. Analysis of atmospheric dust and aerosol extinction
G. Lombardi1, 2, 3, V. Zitelli2, S. Ortolani4, M. Pedani5, and A. Ghedina5

1  Department of Astronomy, University of Bologna, via Ranzani 1, 40127 Bologna, Italy
    e-mail: gianluca.lombardi@oabo.inaf.it
2  INAF-Bologna Astronomical Observatory, via Ranzani 1, 40127 Bologna, Italy
3  European Southern Observatory, Casilla 19001, Santiago 19, Chile
4  Department of Astronomy, University of Padova, vicolo dell'Osservatorio 2, 35122 Padova, Italy
5  Fundación Galileo Galilei and Telescopio Nazionale Galileo, PO Box 565, 38700 Santa Cruz de La Palma, Tenerife, Spain

(Received 28 July 2007 / Accepted 13 February 2008)

Context. It is known that the Canary Islands are normally affected by dominant winds flowing from north-northeast, that in some meteorological conditions, can transport sand from the Sahara desert at high altitude. The dust may affect the efficiency of the telescopes and decrease the transparency of the sky.
Aims. To maximize the scientific return of the telescopes located at the Observatorio del Roque de Los Muchachos (ORM), we present an analysis of the atmospheric dust content and its effects on astronomical observations. Than B, V and I dust aerosol astronomical extinction are derived.
Methods. Using a 5-year series database of data taken from a dust monitor located inside the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (TNG) dome, we computed mean hourly and daily values of the dust content as measured with a four-channel dust monitor.
Results. We detected particles of 0.3, 0.5, 1.0, and 5.0 $\mu$m. Furthermore, using a power law we derived the content of 10.0 $\mu$m particles. We found a typical local dust concentration ranging from 3 $\times$ 106 particles per cubic metre at 0.3 $\mu$m, to 103 at 5.0 $\mu$m and 10 at 10.0 $\mu$m, increasing up to 3 orders of magnitudes during the dust storms, with a relatively higher increase of 1.0, 5.0, and 10.0 $\mu$m particles. The number of local dust storm events is the same in the local winter and summer, but the average background and storm-related increases in the dust concentration in summer are significantly higher than in winter. In a uniform approximation, during the dust storms, an average height of the dust layer of 2.5 km above the telescope is inferred.
Conclusions. During the sand storms, La Palma Island is affected by an almost uniform layer extending up to 5 km above the sea level. The visible extinction is dominated by particles at 1.0, 5.0 and 10.0 $\mu$m. In agreement with the results from Carlsberg Automatic Meridian Circle (CAMC), we find a typical extinction of about 0.2 mag airmass-1 during dust storms.

Key words: site testing -- atmospheric effects -- Earth

© ESO 2008