The natural site of El Torcal de Antequera, in the province of Malaga, has the perfect conditions to enjoy the rain of stars that fills the sky with sparks at night around August 12. At 1,300 meters high, light pollution is minimal, the rock formations that make it up create a special atmosphere and from its astronomical observatory activities are organized for the whole family with groups of 200 people. The success has been so resounding that together with the persecutions Another rain comes, this time in the form of cars. Their drivers park them anywhere, the line of vehicles extends several kilometers "and everything collapses," as the visitor center manager Jorge Alegre explains. "And with so many people it is a fuss, the experience loses bellows and, in addition, it is harmful to the natural space, which has its limits," he emphasizes.
Last Saturday night was a good example. Despite not having any scheduled activity, half a hundred parking spaces next to the building that gives access to the space were filled soon, there were cars parked at the edges of the narrow access road and traffic was complicated. And, as in previous years there have been major problems with the massive influx of tourists, the space has banned this year the arrival by car. Yesterday the barrier that prevents access in motor vehicles was lowered. In return, those responsible for the site have made available a shuttle bus that, from the parking existing almost four kilometers from the site (with a hundred seats), it goes up and down constantly from eight in the afternoon to two in the morning. “Regulation was necessary, because otherwise everything got stuck. And we must remember that this is a natural space, ”says Francisco Gálvez, director of the Astronomical Observatory of El Torcal de Antequera and the Aula del Cielo.
“Regulation was necessary. Remember that this is a natural space, "says the director of the astronomical observatory.
The place has become the great reference of Malaga to enjoy the summer shooting stars and thousands of people approach there, especially every night on August 12. During the last weeks, the telephones of the enclosure have not stopped ringing due to the calls of hundreds of people interested in booking the astronomical observation activities that have the persecuted ones as protagonists. Galvez himself indicates that there are reservations up to one year in advance and that if the groups participating in the activities of the astronomical observatory were 500 people “there would still be a waiting list”. To their assistants we must add the companies that offer night walk packages through the karst labyrinths of El Torcal and stargazing, associations of walkers who also come to the area or families who arrive to make a night picnic in the intermittent light of the meteors. In total, thousands of people for an enclosure with fifty parking lots and a narrow road without shoulders.
For all this, while in recent years the speech has been to encourage the arrival of visitors by counting the advantages of observing the persecuted from various corners of El Torcal, now the strategy has changed. “When they ask me, I recommend going to see them in other places, such as the peaks of the Montes de Málaga Natural Park, the viewpoints of the Fuente de Piedra Lagoon, the outskirts of the small towns… the important thing is to get away from the light pollution of the capital, ”explains Jorge Alegre. In the province of Malaga there are plenty of places with these conditions, such as the Natural Park of the Sierra de las Nieves, west of the province, or that of the Cliffs of Marco - Cerro Gordo, to the east, in Nerja.
This morning is the great night of the persecutions. Between four and five in the morning between 80 and 200 meteors per hour are expected. However, the number of visitors is uncertain because there are two phenomena that will make it difficult to see them. On the one hand, weather forecasts suggest that there will be clouds. On the other, the moon is in a growing phase - it has three days left to be full - and its brightness will make the observation more complicated. This has caused the access fence to be lifted tonight, "because a large influx of people is not expected." In addition, scheduled observation activities have been moved to Friday and Saturday nights. And for those who are left wanting more, Francisco Gálvez remembers that there are rains of more active stars, such as the lionies or the moans. The problem is that the first occur in mid-November and the second in December. "And in El Torcal it is very cold these days," he says. And not only in winter: polar liners were sold today in the visitor center shop.
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