Artist's Impression of the VLT Observatory at Paranal

The European Southern Observatory is in the process of constructing a giant astronomical telescope which will be larger and offer a much better performance than any other existing optical telescope on Earth. The new facility is known as the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) and is comprised of four individual telescopes, each equipped with a main mirror of 8.2-metre diameter. They can be combined to create a light collecting surface equivalent to that of a 16-metre telescope. With a host of high-tech instruments, the VLT will observe the faintest and most remote objects in the Universe. For illustration, this telescope will be so sensitive that it could detect the light from a glowworm at a distance of 10,000 km, and it would in principle be able to image an astronaut on the Moon. The VLT Observatory will be located on the top of Cerro Paranal, a remote mountain peak in the arid Atacama desert in northern Chile. Here, the climate is ideal for astronomical observations with up to 350 clear nights a year. This is also one of the dryest places on Earth and there is very little absorbing water vapour in the air; for this reason, it is optimal for observations in the infrared part of the spectrum. The first VLT 8.2-metre telescope will enter into operation in early 1998; the other three follow in the years thereafter. It is expected that the entire VLT facility will be ready in about 2002.

Artist's Impression of the VLT Observatory at Paranal. Prepared by Jean Quebatte (ESO).

Credit:

Prepared by Jean Quebatte (ESO). This is ESO PR Photo 34/95. It may be reproduced, if credit is given to the European Southern Observatory.

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About the Image

Id:eso9530b
Type:Photographic
Release date:13 November 1995
Related releases:eso9530
Size:626 x 500 px

About the Object

Name:Paranal, Very Large Telescope
Type:• Unspecified : Technology : Observatory
• X - Illustrations

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