Aras de los Olmos is a town in the Serranía in the province of Valencia, in the heart of Alto Turia, it is located 95 kilometers away from the capital, Valencia, and at an altitude of 936 meters above sea level.
Aras de los Olmos is considered a Starlight Reserve, a place of great importance for the world of astronomy. A Starlight Reserve is an unpolluted area where natural night sky light conditions are kept intact, and the area’s local communities have committed to protect the quality of the night sky and to maintain access to starlight through the preservation of a dark zone. This dark zone is protected to avoid the adverse effects of air and light pollution. There are 10 Starlight Reserves in the world, 8 of which are in Spain. The Serranía del Alto Turia is one of these Starlight Reserves, an area given this prestigious title because of the quality of the night sky and the commitment that the local community has for protecting it. The Reserve covers an area that includes mountain villages such as Aras de los Olmos, Alpuente, Titaguas, La Yesa plus 23 more villages of the Teruel Gúdar-Javalambre region, a bit further inland. This group of villages has been working hard for years, not only to preserve access to quality night sky, but to make the area a Starlight Tourist Destination. They’ve developed an offering based on the appreciation of the sky combined with means of observation available to visitors, trained staff for astronomical interpretation and quality accommodations.
The place selected to locate the observatory is a plateau at 1,300 m above sea level, with a drop of more than three hundred meters above the surrounding terrain and sufficiently far from river courses. These orographic conditions of the site, together with its climate with important continental characteristics, provide the atmospheric stability necessary for astronomical observation. In addition, the University of Valencia, due to the impetus that its work and research took, has its own observatory, the OAO (Observatorio de Aras de los Olmos).
Chelynne Campion is a Production/ Sales Assistant for EarthSky. Her family just purchased a telescope, and she's now learning to be a stargazer!