Picture of the Week

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potw1416 — Picture of the Week
Beasts of burden
21 April 2014: Many hands make light work, as the old saying goes, although perhaps in this case the phrase "many wheels make light work" is more appropriate. Pictured here is Otto, one of the two ALMA Transporters along with its companion Lore. Otto and Lore were responsible for carrying the ALMA antennas up to the Chajnantor Plateau, a site some 5000 metres above sea level in northern Chile. After placing the antennas, the two trucks have the additional task of repositioning them according to the scientists' requirements. Otto can be seen in action in this video. These two powerful beasts are the ultimate in custom vehicles. They were designed specifically for ESO by the German vehicle manufacturer Scheuerle Fahrzeugfabrik, who have an impressive history of transporting heavy loads like the Antares rocket and an oil platform weighing in at a staggering 15 000 tonnes! The transporters are identical except for the colour ...
potw1415 — Picture of the Week
La Silla Poses for an Ultra HD Shoot
14 April 2014: A curtain of stars surrounds the 3.58-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT) in this new Ultra High Definition photograph from the ESO Ultra HD Expedition [1]. It was captured on the first night of shooting at ESO's La Silla Observatory, which sits at 2400 metres above sea level on the outskirts of the Chilean Atacama Desert. The majestic telescope enclosure aligns perfectly with the Milky Way’s central region — the brightest section and the area which obscures the galactic centre. The distinctive octagonal enclosure that houses the NTT stands tall in this image — silhouetted against the glittering cosmos above and almost appearing to consume the Milky Way. This telescope housing was considered a technological breakthrough when completed in 1989. Visible to the left of the Milky Way is the bright orange star Antares at the heart of Scorpius (The Scorpion). Saturn can be seen as the brightest point to the ...
potw1414 — Picture of the Week
Cosmic Fireball Falling Over ALMA
7 April 2014: This beautiful new image, taken during a time-lapse set at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is another dramatic Ultra High Definition photograph from the ESO Ultra HD Expedition. ALMA, located at 5000 metres above sea level on the remote and empty Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes, marks the second destination for the four ESO Photo Ambassadors [1] on their 17-day trip. The ambassadors are equipped with state-of-the-art Ultra HD tools to help them capture the true majesty of sights like the one pictured here [2] [3]. Some of the 66 high-precision antennas that comprise ALMA are visible here, with dishes pointed aloft, studying the cold clouds in interstellar space, and peering deep into the past at our mysterious cosmic origins. The spectacular javelin of light over the ALMA array is a shooting star, slicing through the image in a vivid streak of colours. Emerald green, golden and faint ...
potw1413 — Picture of the Week
Capturing the Ultra High Definition Universe
31 March 2014: This photo, taken at ESO's Paranal Observatory, is the first photograph from the ESO Ultra HD Expedition — a pioneering journey currently being undertaken by four world-renowned videographers and ESO Photo Ambassadors [1]. Equipped with state-of-the-art Ultra HD tools [2][3], the team are capturing ESO’s three unique observing sites in Chile in all their grandeur, while documenting their journey and escapades in a blog. The four Unit Telescopes — Antu, Kueyen, Melipal and Yepun — one of the Auxiliary Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), are captured from an unusual perspective in this image. Taken using a fisheye lens, this photography technique produces a 360° view of the location — creating an immersive Paranal world with the swirling Milky Way at the centre of it. Distant cosmic gems are seen scattered above the VLT — speckling the sapphire shades of the night sky. ...
potw1412 — Picture of the Week
Framing the Night Sky
24 March 2014: ESO's observatories are privileged spots where astrophotographers can catch amazing views of the cosmos. But that's not all — sometimes, they are ideal locations from which to capture otherworldly images of our own planet, too. In this shot, ESO photo ambassador Gabriel Brammer has used a fish-eye lens to create this spectacular round effect. The clear sky over Paranal looks like a glass ball full of stars, with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) platform framing the picture. In the bottom left the four VLT Unit Telescopes, each some 25 metres tall, are observing the night sky, one of them pointing its laser up into the night. Scattered around the top left of the frame, the round domes of the VLT Auxiliary Telescopes are easily spotted under the bright Milky Way. The two blurry smudges just above the laser are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two of the closest galaxies ...
potw1411 — Picture of the Week
A Milky Arc Over Paranal
17 March 2014: Another clear night at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile — perfect for sitting back and taking in the sight of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Many of us living in living in crowded, light-polluted cities no longer get to see our cosmic home in such detail. We now know this stunning view to be our home galaxy, but the Ancient Greeks thought that it was the work of the Gods. Their legends told that this cloudy streak across the sky was really the breast milk of Hera, wife of Zeus. The Ancient Greeks are also to thank for the name “Milky Way”. The Hellenistic phrase Γαλαξίας κύκλος, pronounced galaxias kyklos, means “milky circle”, and provides the root for our modern name. This 360 degree panorama image was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Gabriel Brammer. An astronomer visiting Paranal can be seen standing towards the right hand side of this image ...
potw1410 — Picture of the Week
Rosetta’s Comet is Waking Up
10 March 2014: On 20 January 2014, ESA's Rosetta spacecraft emerged from a long deep-space hibernation to approach its target — comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/CG). From our vantage point on Earth, comet 67P/CG has only just reappeared from behind the Sun. On 28 February 2014 ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) directed its gaze towards the comet as soon as it became visible from ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile. ESO is collaborating with ESA to monitor the comet from the ground as it is approached by Rosetta over the coming months. These observations will prepare for the spacecraft's major rendezvous with the comet, planned for August of this year (see potw1403a). This new image, and many more to come, will be used by ESA to refine Rosetta's navigation, and to monitor how much dust the comet is releasing. The image on the left was created by stacking the individual exposures to show the background stars ...
potw1409 — Picture of the Week
ALMA Workers Rescue Abandoned Vicuña Fawn
3 March 2014: High on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes lies the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an observatory surrounded by large expanses of dry landscape. Perhaps surprisingly, the region is home to a number of different wildlife species, many of which occasionally pop up near to the observatory. Further south, ESO’s La Silla Observatory recently had visits from a South American grey fox (potw1406a), and wild horses (potw1344a). The most recent cute visitor to ALMA is this vicuña fawn, found on 16 February 2014 by ALMA workers. The fawn was only a few weeks old, weakened after it was chased by foxes until it lost sight of its herd. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts the following day to return the fawn to its herd, the workers transferred it to the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center at the Universidad de Antofagasta, where it is being treated so that it can ...
potw1408 — Picture of the Week
The Curves of ESO’s Headquarters
24 February 2014: Bereft of colour in this striking infrared image, the sweeping curves of ESO's Headquarters clash with the frosty natural beauty of the surrounding trees. The extreme curvature visible in this image is due to the photographer's use of a fisheye lens, which distorts the view and causes the building to encircle the pale foliage and frame the sky above. The foliage appears to be bright as it reflects the infrared light, and the pale white hue comes from the photographer applying a white colour balance to the tree leaves. The precise curves of concrete, glass, and steel give clues as to the Headquarters building's peculiar structure. In 1981 an article in ESO's The Messenger described the ESO building as "a labyrinth of the kind used to test the intelligence of rats". But, fortunately for ESO, the writer soon noted that "human beings are on average cleverer than rats, and the ...
potw1407 — Picture of the Week
VST Snaps Gaia en Route to a Billion Stars
17 February 2014: These new images from ESO's Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope (VST) show ESA's Gaia spacecraft in its position some 1.5 million kilometres beyond Earth's orbit. Launched on the morning of Thursday, 19 December 2013, the satellite is on a quest to build a 3D map of our galaxy over the next five years. Mapping the sky has been one of humanity's quests since the dawn of time, and Gaia will take our understanding of our stellar neighbourhood to a whole new level. It will measure very precisely the positions and motions of about one billion stars in our galaxy, to explore the Milky Way's composition, formation and evolution. These new observations are the result of a close collaboration between ESA and ESO to monitor the spacecraft from the ground. Gaia is the most accurate astrometric device ever built, but in order for its observations to be useful it needs to ...
potw1406 — Picture of the Week
Fantastic Mr Fox
10 February 2014: Perched precariously on the edge of the habitable world, life manages to cling on. On the outskirts of the hot, dry Atacama Desert, this hardy South American grey fox has just awoken, stretching leisurely. These foxes are generally active during the night, making the most of the drop in temperature that comes with a respite from the hot Chilean Sun. In the background there are other signs of life. This white dome houses the Swiss 1.2-metre Leonhard Euler Telescope, which is protected from the harsh conditions by its outer shell. As the skies grow darker at ESO’s La Silla Observatory another famously nocturnal species, the astronomer, wakes up, stretches, and gets ready to scan the skies with buzzing and whirring technology. This image was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Malte Tewes and submitted to the Your ESO Pictures Flickr group. The Flickr group is regularly reviewed and the best photos ...
potw1405a — Picture of the Week
Antarctic Air Visits Paranal
3 February 2014: This beautiful panorama of ESO's Paranal Observatory was taken on 5 July 2012, and marks one of the driest days ever recorded at the Very Large Telescope complex. Paranal sits like an island in the middle of the frame, with massive cloud banks floating below, over the distant Pacific Ocean. The extremely low humidity at Paranal during this period was recorded by a water vapour radiometer known as LHATPRO, which monitors the atmosphere to support the observations carried out at the observatory [1]. Meteorologists from two Chilean universities identified the cause for these unusually dry conditions: high-altitude Antarctic air moving far to the north, and descending over Paranal. This cold front lingered around Paranal for over 12 hours, causing a record-low level of humidity in the air above the observatory [2]. Florian Kerber (ESO) and colleagues analysed this unusual weather, publishing the results in a paper in the Monthly Notices ...
potw1404 — Picture of the Week
Swimming Pool Interferometry
27 January 2014: Astronomers do not always swim at the swimming pool at the Paranal Observatory Residencia, but when they do, they like to show how physical principles work. In this picture the French ESO astronomer Jean-Baptiste Le Bouquin is demonstrating how waves — not light waves, but water waves — can combine, or interfere, to create larger waves. The combination of light waves is the main principle behind the VLT Interferometer: the light waves captured by each one of the four 8-metre telescopes are combined using a network of channels and mirrors. This way the spatial resolution of the telescope is vastly increased and, with enough exposure time, the cameras and instruments can reveal the same level of detail as a telescope with a 130-metre diameter mirror could, far bigger than any telescope in existence. This image was taken by award-winning editorial and commercial photographer Max Alexander. See also Tribute to ESO’s ...
potw1403 — Picture of the Week
Rosetta's Comet
20 January 2014: ESA's Rosetta spacecraft will wake up today, 20 January, after 31 months in deep space hibernation, to finally close in on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/CG). This image shows the most recent observations of the 4-kilometre diameter comet, taken on 5 October 2013 by ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) when the comet was around 500 million kilometres away — before it passed behind the Sun and out of view from Earth's perspective. For this image, a long series of observations was processed to reveal both the comet without the background stars (on the left panel), and the star field with the track of the comet marked (on the right). Viewed against a crowded star field towards the centre of the Milky Way, the comet was still so far from the Sun that the icy nucleus was not releasing any gas or dust, and appears as a simple spot. As it approaches the ...
potw1402 — Picture of the Week
ALMA and Chajnantor at Twilight
13 January 2014: Thanks to ESO’s Photo Ambassadors we can enjoy sensational images taken at the ESO sites on the remote mountaintops of Chile. Babak Tafreshi has captured this fine panoramic view of the antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) at twilight. Resembling a frame from a science fiction movie, the technological spectacle of ALMA against the raw natural power of the landscape on the Chajnantor Plateau, 5000 metres above sea level, results in fascinating images like this one. There are a few details you shouldn't miss in this panoramic photo of ALMA (seen more clearly in the zoomable version), all lying between the two groups of antennas: the "Earth's shadow" and "Belt of Venus" phenomena, visible as the dark blue and light pink bands stretching across the sky, and the planet Jupiter, seen right above the mountain in the background. ALMA, an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, ...
potw1401 — Picture of the Week
Paranal Nights
6 January 2014: Gaze up at the night sky from ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile, and you will be greeted with a stunning view like this one. Flecks of blue, orange, red; each a different star, galaxy, nebula, or more, together forming a sparkling sky overhead. Astronomers peer at this beautiful backdrop, trying to unravel the mysteries of the Universe. To do this, they use telescopes like the ones shown here, the VLT Auxiliary Telescopes. This image shows three of the four moveable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: they reveal details that would be visible with a telescope as large as the distance between them.
potw1352 — Picture of the Week
Bright Night at Paranal
30 December 2013: When night falls, ESO's observatories spring to life. Astronomers and technicians take their positions, and telescopes are pointed skywards. This image shows the pristine skies over ESO's Paranal Observatory in the Chilean Atacama Desert, far away from city lights. Here, ESO photo ambassador Gabriel Brammer has captured the serene beauty of the Milky Way from the platform of the Very Large Telescope. The four massive blocks in the bottom of the image are the four VLT Unit Telescopes, each of them housing incredibly precise 8.2-metre mirrors. Scattered around are the VLT's Auxiliary Telescopes, easily identifiable due to their round, white domes. The bright spot to the left is the Moon, shining as brightly as if it were the Sun, and to the right, the shadow of the photographer can be seen, waving to the viewer with outstretched arms. The entire night sky is visible due to Brammer's use of a ...
potw1351 — Picture of the Week
Season's Greetings from the European Southern Observatory!
23 December 2013: Season's Greetings on behalf of everyone at the European Southern Observatory! We wish you a jolly end of the year and a fruitful 2014! Link Christmas card 2013
potw1350 — Picture of the Week
Star Trails over the VLT in Paranal
16 December 2013: This image was taken by Babak A. Tafreshi, one of ESO’s Photo Ambassadors, at ESO’s Paranal Observatory. It shows three of the four Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). Above them, the long bright stripes are star trails, each one marking the apparent path of a single star across the dark night sky, due to the rotation of the Earth. This technique also enhances the natural colours of the stars, which gives an indication of their temperature, ranging from about 1000 degrees Celsius for the reddest stars to a few tens of thousands of degrees Celsius for the hottest, which appear blue. The sky in this remote and high location in Chile is extremely clear and there is no light pollution, offering us this amazing light show.
potw1349 — Picture of the Week
Brand New Image of Nova Centauri 2013
9 December 2013: Alpha and Beta Centauri, two of the brightest stars in the southern sky, now have a new companion — the naked eye Nova Centauri 2013. This photo was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Yuri Beletsky at ESO's La Silla Observatory in the Chilean Atacama Desert in the morning hours of Monday 9 December 2013. The nova was discovered by John Seach from Australia on 2 December 2013 as it approached naked eye brightness. Nova Centaurus 2013 is the brightest nova to have occurred so far this millennium. This particular event is known as a classical nova, and is not to be confused with a supernova. Classical novae occur in binary star systems when hydrogen gas from the orbiting stellar partner is accreted onto the surface of the main star, causing a runaway thermonuclear event resulting in the brightening of the main star. In a classical novae the main star is ...
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