Very Large Telescope units on Cerro Paranal
|Organization||European Southern Observatory|
|Location||Cerro Paranal, Chile|
|Altitude||2,635 metres (8,645 ft)|
ESO - VLT
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 (ESO). 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.
From an aerial view of the Paranal Oberservatory, the four large units of the VLT with their four small, dome-shaped auxiliary telescopes can be clearly seen. The Survey Telescope, VST, is immediately adjacent to the VLT and seen in between two of its units, while VISTA is located on a secondary peak, some 1,500 m away in the background (see image).
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
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)
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.
Observing the center of the Milky Way using the laser guide star facility at Yepun, one of the four Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT)
Night time-lapse taken at ESO's Paranal observatory in Chile, showing the Magellanic Clouds in the top-center of the image.
Popular culture and other uses
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.
On 14 March 2013, Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, accompanied by his wife, Princess Mary, visited ESO’s Paranal Observatory, as part of an official visit to Chile. Their tour of Paranal astronomical facilities was led by ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw.
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- European Northern Observatory
- List of astronomical observatories
- Llano de Chajnantor Observatory
- La Silla Observatory
- Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory
- Very Large Telescope
- European Extremely Large Telescope
- European Southern Observatory homepage
- ESO - Interferometry
- Paranal Observatory featured in the Astronomy Picture of the Day