Observatories in Tenerife. Photo: Getty Images

CLUB PEOPLE • October 2015

My Club: The stargazer

The Armenian astrophysicist and Executive Club Member Garik Israelian is best known for his research work on supernova explosions and stellar-mass black holes. He founded the Starmus Festival in Tenerife to introduce the public to space science

How do you rate your Executive Club experience?
I’ve been a member since 1998 and often fly to Los Angeles and New York from London for work. I enjoy it all, from the food and planes to the lounges and fast-track service. It’s great to have internet access while waiting for a flight. I redeem my Avios on hotels and more flights.

Why is Tenerife such a great location for star spotting?
It’s in the middle of the ocean, which guarantees a clear sky. Plus, the observatories on La Palma and Tenerife are about 2,500 metres above sea level, allowing us to look out above the so-called ‘sea of the clouds’.  

What else do you love about the area?
The most amazing and mysterious place on Tenerife is Teide National Park. I go there whenever I am feeling down or need some energy. I’ve visited many other volcanic islands, but nothing compares. I also love the wild and rocky beaches of Tenerife, and the paradise islands of La Palma and Lanzarote.

After Tenerife, what’s the next best place for star spotting?
Chile. The Atacama Desert has high altitude, few clouds and almost no light pollution. You can easily observe the Southern Hemisphere sky, including the Tarantula Nebula and Fornax Cluster of galaxies.

Anybody out there? The skies above Tenerife are clear of light pollution

What’s the most exciting sight you’ve seen from a plane?
Last March’s solar eclipse was inspiring and breathtaking: I was knocked down by its beauty. I was with Brian May, who said, “Don’t take pictures, just watch. You’ll never see anything like this!” He was right – we only had a few minutes to enjoy it.

What should people expect from the Starmus Festival?
It’s a big science party focused on astronomy and space. We hope people will learn a lot at the educational sessions, and they’ll have plenty of free time for stargazing on the beach. We have great guests, including Stephen Hawking and Neil Armstrong.

The next Starmus Festival will take place 27 June–2 July 2016 in Tenerife and La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain 

Interview: Tamara Hinson

This article has been tagged Technology, Culture