Image of the Day: Europe’s “Very Large Telescope” –A Giant Eye on the Cosmos


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This aerial photograph of the home of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), shows the Paranal Observatory In the foreground, located at an altitude of 2,600 meters on Mount Paranal in the Atacama Desert in Chile. In the background  you can see the snow-capped, 6,720 meter-high volcano Llullaillaco, located 190 km further East on the Argentinean border. This image is a testimony of the magnificent quality of the air and the ideal conditions for observing at this remote site, where the light from the Milky Way can cast your shadow at night.

Clearly visible in the image are the domes of the four giant 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes of the VLT, with the Control Building, where astronomers carry out the observations, in the foreground. 

Astronomers working as part of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at the Cerra Paranal Mountain Observatory, have succeeded in virtually connecting all four main Unit Telescopes (UTs) at the site, completing a project ten years in the making. Connecting the telescopes together virtually allows for the creation of a single virtual mirror that allows researchers to capture images from space as if all of the telescopes were in fact one giant telescope with a mirror 130m in diameter. Combined, the telescopes are known as the Very Large Telescope (VLT).

ALMA –the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array– which has just started its Early Science observations. ALMA , constructed by ESO and its international partners, observes the Universe in light with millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths — radically different from visible-light and infrared telescopes.

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