Paranal Observatory

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Paranal Observatory
Very Large Telescope units on Cerro Paranal
Very Large Telescope units on Cerro Paranal
Organization European Southern Observatory
Code 309  
Location Cerro Paranal, Chile
Altitude 2,635 metres (8,645 ft)
Very Large Telescope 8.2 m reflector (×4)
VLT Auxiliary Telescope 1.8 m reflector (×4)
VISTA Telescope 4.0 m reflector
VLT Survey Telescope 2.6 m reflector
On 14 March 2013 His Royal Highness The Crown Prince of Denmark, accompanied by his wife, Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess, visited ESO’s Paranal Observatory, as part of an official visit to Chile. They were taken on a tour of ESO’s world-leading astronomical facilities on Paranal by ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw.

Paranal Observatory is an astronomical observatory located on Cerro Paranal at 2,635 m (8,645 ft) altitude, 120 km (70 mi) south of Antofagasta, Chile, and operated by the European Southern Observatory. The Very Large Telescope (VLT), the largest telescope on Paranal, is composed of four separate 8.2 m (320 in) telescopes. In addition, the four main telescopes can combine their light to make a fifth instrument, the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). Four auxiliary telescopes of 1.8 m (71 in) each are also part of the VLTI to make it available when the main telescopes are being used for other projects.

The site also houses the 2.6 m (100 in) VLT Survey Telescope and 4.0 m (160 in) VISTA survey telescope with wider fields of view for surveying large areas of sky uniformly.


Very Large Telescope[edit]

Main article: Very Large Telescope

The Very Large Telescope (VLT) consists of four 8.2 m telescopes operating in the visible and infrared. These telescopes, along with four smaller auxiliary telescopes, are also combined to operate as an optical interferometer on certain nights of the year. All of the 8.2 m telescopes have adaptive optics and a full suite of instruments.

VISTA Survey Telescope[edit]

Main article: VISTA (telescope)

VISTA is the Visible & Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy. A 4.0 m telescope with a wide field of view, that will focus on infrared surveys of the sky. VISTA was built close to ESO's VLT by a consortium of 18 UK universities led by Queen Mary, University of London it was handed over to the European Southern Observatory in December 2009

VLT Survey Telescope (VST)[edit]

Main article: VLT Survey Telescope

The VLT Survey Telescope or VST is a 2.6 m telescope with a wide field imager intended to aid the VLT in its scientific aims.

Other buildings[edit]

The visit of the Prince and Princess of Asturias to the observatory

As well as the telescopes, control buildings and maintenance facilities, Paranal has a Residencia (ESO Hotel) which provides accommodation for staff and visitors. This is located 200 m lower and 3 km from the telescopes. It is built half into the mountain with the concrete coloured to blend into the landscape. It has gym facilities, a swimming pool, a restaurant and two gardens. The construction was decorated by the Chilean architect Paula Gutiérrez Erlandsen, Marchioness of la Pica.[1]

Popular culture and other uses[edit]

The VLT hotel, the Residencia, served as a backdrop for part of the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace.

The observatory's facilities were used to stage the Pacific Alliance's fourth summit in June 2012, formally launching the organization.


360-degree Panorama of the southern sky above the Paranal platform

See also[edit]


External links[edit]