Mounted image 187: The VLT platform on top of Cerro Paranal
This image shows the platform on the summit of Cerro Paranal, in Northern Chile that houses the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT).
Three of the enclosures protecting the 8.2-metre diameter VLT Unit Telescopes (UTs) are shown and the photographer was on the top of the fourth one, about 35 metres above the platform. At night the huge doors in the enclosures slide open and the 275-tonne top parts of these buildings rotate so that the telescope can observe any part of the sky. The pick-up truck in front of the first UT helps give the scale of this 10-story high building. On the left of the image the rails on which the 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) can be moved to different observing stations are visible. Two of the four ATs are visible in the picture. The low building in the lower left corner houses the VLT Interferometer laboratory, where the light from several telescopes can be combined, a technique that reveals details much smaller than can be seen with a single telescope.
Behind the telescopes the desert hills surrounding Cerro Paranal stretch into the distance. Further away the cloud-covered Pacific Ocean can be seen: only 12 km away but 2.6 km lower down.