The Astrophysics Center of La Palma takes the name of 'Francisco Sánchez'.

In honor of the founding director of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and the Starlight Foundation and pioneer of astrophysics in Spain.

2024 / 04 / 02

The Center for Astrophysics on La Palma (CALP) is paying tribute to one of the "pioneers and promoters" of astrophysics in Spain by naming it "Francisco Sánchez" in recognition of the work and historic role of the founding director of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the Starlight Foundation.

This physicist from Toledo was the first professor of astrophysics at a Spanish university, trained the first Spanish astrophysicists and created the first astrophysics research group in the country.

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Under his leadership, the IAC built the first scientific instrument for a satellite to be manufactured in Spain in the 1980s. And one of its most important milestones, the Gran Telescopio Canarias, was designed and built. Finally, as Francisco Sánchez himself pointed out, "after many years of struggle, he managed to create IACTEC, a center open to companies, where even artificial satellites are successfully built".

Another of Professor Sánchez's great achievements was to prove scientifically for the first time the extraordinary astronomical quality of the Canary Islands' peaks and to promote this quality internationally as a "natural resource". Thanks to his struggle, the skies of Tenerife and La Palma are protected by law -the so-called Sky Law, which was a pioneer in the world and served as an inspiration for other regulations implemented in other autonomous communities and countries such as Chile or Hawaii- and the IAC observatories are now protected by law.

He is firmly committed to promoting the cultural diffusion and popularization of science, and with the aim of protecting the night sky and opening up the starry night for the enjoyment of all, in 2007 he succeeded in holding the First International Conference, which resulted in the creation of the Starlight Foundation, an entity of which he is now Vice President, and which promotes and provides a basis for astro-tourism with its quality certifications, endorsed by the International Astronomical Union, UNESCO and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Starlight Declaration

The Starlight Foundation, according to Professor Sánchez, "was created specifically for this purpose and has been responsible for spreading the Declaration of La Palma throughout the world, giving rise to a very special and powerful tourist movement, that of starry nights, which is becoming more and more fashionable in the world and a growing source of income for La Palma".

Thanks to his work, the Starlight Declaration in Defense of the Night Sky and the Right to Starlight, or La Palma Declaration, currently has about 1,200 adherents and more than two hundred Starlight Certifications have been granted, achieving the protection of the night sky in about 100,000 km2 of territory.

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Reasons enough for the Astrophysics Center of La Palma to take the name "Francisco Sanchez" in an inauguration ceremony that took place this Tuesday, April 2nd, at the headquarters of CALP, in the municipality of Breña Baja. In addition to Francisco Sánchez, the event was attended by Nieves Lady Barreto, Minister of Presidency, Public Administration, Justice and Security of the Government of the Canary Islands; Juan Ramón Felipe San Antonio, Vice President of the Cabildo of La Palma; Rafael Rebolo López, Director of the IAC; Casiana Muñoz, Deputy Director; Pedro Álvarez, Trustee of the Starlight Foundation and former Director of GRANTECAN; and Antonia Varela, current Director of the Starlight Foundation.

Francisco Sánchez, who thanked the entire Instituto Astrofísico de Canarias for "this honor", added: "I am convinced that with this great astrophysical center, La Palma has an exceptional opportunity to become a Silicon Valley".

He recalled that "the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (ORM) will be populated with large telescopes from all over the world, and this Astrophysics Center where we are now will be the base for all of them, and here there will be workshops and laboratories, and hundreds of first class scientists and technologists will work there. And therefore it will be a powerful scientific-technological nest."

Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias
Coorporación 5