In April 2000 I accompanied Alastair Edge of Durham University to IRAM Granada.

IRAM (Instituto de Radioastronomia Milimetrica) is a French/German/Spanish institute for millimetre astronomy. IRAM's headquarters are located in Grenoble, France. The institute has two facilities - a five element interferometer on the Plateau de Bure in the French Alps (currently closed following two serious accidents), and the 30m telescope on Pico Veleta in the Spanish Sierra Nevada.

The 30m telescope operates in the 1-3mm (300-100GHz) range, and is the largest in the world in this region of the spectrum. It is located about 50km from the city of Granada in the Spanish region of Anadalucia. The telescope lies at 2920m above sea-level, a few hundred metres below the summit of Pico Veleta in the Sierra Nevada ("snowy mountains", as you can see in the photos!) The highest mountain in mainland Spain, Mulhacen (3478m), is about 5km away. From an astronomical point of view, the low water vapour content of the site (if the clouds don't rise!) make it suitable for mm work (which can be done during the daytime). About 13% of observing time each year is lost due to wind though - see below for an example! From my stereotypical Englishman's point of view, the only drawback is that the low air pressure (about 70% of that at sea-level) means you can't make a good cup of tea...

The telescope is sited close to the top of a large ski-run. Transport to the site in winter is via cable-car and snow-mobile. In summer, the highest road in Spain leads you right to the door, but that can't be half as much fun!

First view of the telescope
First view of the telescope, at the top of the ski-slopes.

IRAM Granada
The control building and telescope, and some passers-by.
The dish is 30m across and weighs 80 tonnes.

IRAM Granada
Another view of the telescope.

Stowed configuration
Not what you want to see when observing. If the wind-speed rises above 18 m/s the telescope must be parked in this safety position. Very photogenic though.

Sunset from IRAM
The view from IRAM at sunset. The views back down to Granada at night are stunning, but sadly didn't photograph too well.

Early morning moon
Early morning moon from IRAM Granada.

Some far, far better photographs are available here.

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