The Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT) is an 8.4-foot telescope perched at the top of the Roque de los Muchachos on the island of La Palma. Built in 1988 by the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland, it was the first major telescope ever to use adaptive optics to correct the vibrations of the air and get a clearer image of the sky.
The NOT has been a valuable tool for astronomers and continues to function today. Unfortunately for telescope enthusiasts, the observatory is located on one of the highest peaks in the Canary Islands and is quite hard to visit if you don’t work there. Fortunately, the NOT office thought of a way to remedy this: displaying a 1:32 scale Lego model of the telescope in its waiting room in San Antonio (Breña Baja).
The Lego model consists of a few hundred pieces and very accurately represents each aspect of the Nordic telescope, including its size, positioning, dome size, and so on. It also rotates and moves in the same way as the real deal. The model was created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the telescope.
Interestingly enough, the actual telescope also used Lego bricks to fix a problem with one of its instruments. The optical fibers that go to the FIES instrument perform better if they are shaken and in motion, so to achieve this one of the operators made a Lego fiber shaker with his son, and installed it in the basement of the telescope.
Know Before You Go
The NOT office is not necessarily open to the public, but you could always try to knock and see the Lego telescope. Its office hours are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The real telescope is visible from the tourist lookout platform at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, so drive up there if you have the chance. Tours can be arranged through the NOT office.