August 2010 — Early morning on Paranal

The early morning light trickles across the observing platform of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Cerro Paranal in Chile. The air of peace and tranquility is in stark contrast to the frantic activity at the observatory. The four 8.2-metre VLT Unit Telescopes are all targeting specific celestial objects, helping astronomers in their daily quest to understand the Universe. To the right, a laser fires from Unit Telescope 4 (UT4, or Yepun) as part of the adaptive optics system that counteracts the blurring effect of the atmosphere, allowing astronomers to obtain very sharp images. Meanwhile, three of the four smaller 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes (visible in the foreground and near UT4) work together in interferometric mode to obtain an even more detailed view of a different cosmic object. The technique of interferometry combines the observing power of multiple telescopes at the VLT, in essence creating a giant, powerful telescope.

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ESO/H.H. Heyer

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