EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY (ESO) NIGHTS
Image Credit & Copyright: ESO Photo Ambassador, Babak Tafreshi. CLICK image for HUGE view and look below for information and related links.
WOW! That’s the initial thought that came to mind the instant I viewed this image for the first time. It was then followed by thoughts of me needing (wanting) a better camera and that I wanted to go there, but that’s a story for another time. This incredible image comes from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Photo Ambassador and world class photographer Babak Tafreshi.
Taken at the Very Large Telescope, Paranal Observatory, in the Atacama Desert of Chile, this image offers up some amazing night sky details. At 7500 light years distant the strikingly brilliant Carina nebula steals the show, glowing brightly in pink/red along the plane of the Milky Way. This nebula is the brightest in the night sky and within it reside some of the most massive stars in the galaxy to include Eta Carinae. What other well-known clusters and nebulae can you point out in this image?
Most of us struggle to come up with dark skies and suitable foreground objects. That’s a non-issue when you’re in one of the darkest, driest locations on the planet. Oh, and having one of the world’s most powerful optical telescopes to place into your images doesn’t hurt either.
These beautiful telescopes are three of the four 1.8m Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) which inject light into the massive Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). These four troops can maneuver around the VLT deck like chess pieces to 30 different locations depending on the work required of them. They are all self-contained as the enclosure physically protects the instrument and the electronics, power supply and cooling system below act as a constant life support.
The four main VLT 8.2m Unit Telescopes (UTs) can, for a limited time every year, be used together to act as one massive telescope called the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). Light from each telescope travels through underground tunnels of equal distance and is combined to produce images upward of 25 times finer than one of the VLT UT’s alone. The 4 main UT’s have names as well. A contest was held and later won by 17 year old Jorssy Albanez Castilla from Chuquicamata, Chile. She chose to name the units in the local Mapuche language and they are; UT1 “Antu = Sun”, UT2 “Kueyen = Moon”, UT3 “Melipal = Southern Cross” and UT4 “Yepun = Venus as the Evening Star.”
European Southern Observatory (ESO) page for this image: http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1246a/
ESO Auxiliary Telescope information page: http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/vlt/auxiliarytelescopes/
ESO VLTI page: http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/vlt/
VLT CAM LIVE: http://www.eso.org/public/webcams/vlt.jpg