First Auxiliary Telescope for the VLT
Another advanced astronomical telescope has just been installed at the Paranal Observatory, located in the heart of the Chilean Atacama Desert and home of the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT).
The new telescope, known as Auxiliary Telescope no. 1 (AT1), forms part of the VLT Interferometer (VLTI). It has a main mirror of 1.8-m diameter and is installed in a compact dome. In contrast to the four giant 8.2-m telescopes and, indeed, to any other telescope in the world of this size, it can be moved along a system of railway tracks on the top of the Paranal mountain. It sends the captured light from celestial objects into the subterranean Interferometric Tunnel from where it is directed to the central Interferometric Laboratory.
This is the first of four AT's that will be installed in 2004-2006. These compact, high-tech telescopes are built by the AMOS company in Liège (Belgium). When placed in different configurations on the tracks, they will enable the VLTI to operate with great flexibility (also when the large telescopes are busy with other observations) and to obtain extremely sharp images of celestial objects - ultimately with a resolution that corresponds to seeing an astronaut on the Moon.
ESO Press Video eso0402 shows some scenes from ESO Video News Reel no. 14 (see below) and provides an overview of the installation of AT1 at Paranal.