Picture of the Week

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potw1124 — Picture of the Week
By the Light of the Moon
13 June 2011: ESO Photo Ambassador Gianluca Lombardi used a remote shutter release and a 30-second exposure to take this night-time shot of himself sitting on a railing on the observing platform of the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT). The VLT is on Cerro Paranal, at an altitude of 2600 metres in Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the driest regions on Earth. The viewing conditions at Paranal are so superb that on a clear moonless night it is possible to see shadows cast by the light of the Milky Way alone.   In this photograph, however, the Moon is up, appearing as a bright light due to the long exposure. It is about to dip behind the VLT’s Unit Telescope 4 (UT4), named Yepun, and the shadows thrown by the moonlight are lengthening across the 200-metre width of the observing platform. The other three UTs stand in the background. From left to right they ...
potw1123 — Picture of the Week
A Slice of the Sky
6 June 2011: This spectacular approximately 230-degree panoramic photograph of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Gerhard Hüdepohl, gives us an inspiring view of a slice of the sky, encompassing both our nearest celestial neighbour and star clusters hundreds of light-years away. The VLT’s four large Unit Telescopes dominate the foreground. With gigantic mirrors 8.2 metres across, they allow us to peer into space and see things four billion times fainter than we can see with our eyes alone. Also visible are the round enclosures of the four 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes, one to the left of the Unit Telescopes and three to the right. This observatory has an excellent location, on Cerro Paranal in the Chilean Atacama Desert. It is so high, at 2600 metres altitude, that what looks like the rippling ocean to the west, on the left of the image, is in fact the cloud layer below ...
potw1122 — Picture of the Week
European Antennas Under Construction
30 May 2011: This is a helicopter view of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Operations Support Facility (OSF) site. In the foreground is the AEM Consortium’s [1] facility where the European antennas are assembled and tested. Seven of the 25 European antennas can be seen, pointing towards the sky. More parts, including a receiver cabin and antenna base, await the next assembly. Each antenna has a dish 12 metres in diameter, and weighs about 95 tonnes. Once an antenna is assembled and ready, it is handed over to the ALMA project and moved to the nearby OSF technical area, which is the area in the background, where more antennas can be seen. Here, it is integrated into the rest of the observatory’s systems. Finally, after further tests by the ALMA team, it is moved from the 2900 metres high OSF to its workplace, the Array Operation Site (AOS), located at an altitude ...
potw1121 — Picture of the Week
First 7-metre ALMA Antenna Handed Over to Observatory
23 May 2011: The first of twelve 7-metre antennas has been handed over to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile. ALMA will have an array of fifty antennas with 12-metre diameter dishes, as well as a system known as the Atacama Compact Array (ACA), provided by Japan, of which this new 7-metre antenna is part. The ACA will have a total of twelve 7-metre dishes and four 12-metre dishes, and will be particularly important for ALMA’s observations of the broader structure in extended astronomical objects such as giant clouds of molecular gas.The 7-metre antenna is seen here at the ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF), at an altitude of 2900 metres in the foothills of the Chilean Andes. These antennas are being provided by Japan through a contract with MELCO (Mitsubishi Electric Corporation).The antennas are manufactured in Japan, then disassembled and shipped to Chile. They are reassembled and tested at the ...
potw1120 — Picture of the Week
The Czech President’s Galaxy
16 May 2011: This new image of the spiral galaxy NGC 3244 was taken with the help of the President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus, during his visit to ESO’s Paranal Observatory [1], on the night of 6 April 2011. The Czech Republic joined ESO in 2007, and this was the first visit of the country’s President to an ESO site. This galaxy has attracted considerable interest from astronomers over the past nine months, thanks to the violent death of one of its stars, which was discovered on 27 June 2010. This supernova explosion, now known as Supernova 2010ev (SN 2010ev), is still visible as the — now faint — blue dot nestled within one of the thick spiral arms just to the left of the galaxy’s nucleus. To the right of  the galaxy, an unremarkable foreground star in our own Milky Way, TYC 7713-527-1, shines brightly enough to catch our attention. Although ...
potw1119 — Picture of the Week
Eclipsed Moon, Striking Night Sky
9 May 2011: A total eclipse of the Moon is an impressive spectacle. But it also provides another viewing opportunity: a dark, moonlight-free starry sky. At Cerro Paranal in the Chilean Atacama Desert, one of the most remote places in the world, the distance from sources of light pollution makes the night sky all the more remarkable during a total lunar eclipse.   This panorama photo, taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Yuri Beletsky, shows the view of the starry sky from the site of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Cerro Paranal during the total lunar eclipse of 21 December 2010. The reddish disc of the Moon is seen on the right of the image, while the Milky Way arches across the heavens in all its beauty. Another faint glow of light is also visible, surrounding the brilliant planet Venus in the bottom left corner of the picture. This phenomenon, known as zodiacal ...
potw1118 — Picture of the Week
Planetary Conjunction over Paranal
2 May 2011: ESO Photo Ambassador Gerhard Hüdepohl has captured yet another rare sight. Yesterday, in the morning of 1 May 2011, about an hour before sunrise, five of our Solar System’s eight planets and the Moon could be seen from Paranal. The four planets in the sky were Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter, and they were joined by the crescent Moon to create this wonderful photo opportunity of a planetary conjunction — two or more celestial bodies seen near each other in the sky, usually from the Earth. In this photo, the bright crescent of the Moon is illuminated by the Sun (which is just below the horizon), while the darker part receives only light reflected from the surface of the Earth. Venus is the highest and brightest planet, with Mercury below and to the right. Jupiter is directly below Venus, but much closer to the horizon. Mars can be seen just ...
potw1117 — Picture of the Week
Rare Moon Green Flash Captured
25 April 2011: On Cerro Paranal, the 2600-metre-high mountain in Chile’s Atacama Desert that is home to ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the atmospheric conditions are so exceptional that fleeting events such as the green flash of the setting Sun are seen relatively frequently. Now, however, ESO Photo Ambassador Gerhard Hüdepohl has captured an even rarer sight: a green flash from the Moon, instead of the Sun. The photographs are very probably the best ever taken of the Moon’s green flash. Gerhard was surprised and delighted to catch the stunning green flash in this series of photographs of the setting full Moon crossing the horizon, taken on a clear early morning from the Paranal Residencia. The Earth’s atmosphere bends, or refracts, light — rather like a giant prism. The effect is greater in the lower denser layers of the atmosphere, so rays of light from the Sun or Moon are curved slightly downwards. Shorter ...
potw1116 — Picture of the Week
On Top of the World
18 April 2011: Some places on Earth can seem like alien environments, as this stunning 360 degree panorama shows. It is not the strange surface of an exoplanet, but rather the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. This unearthly location is home to ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Chajnantor was chosen because the rarefied atmosphere above this very high site is so dry that, unlike at most other places on Earth, it is largely transparent to the wavelengths of light that ALMA is designed to detect. At the centre of the image, the darker, rounded shape of the peak of Cerro Chajnantor, 5600 metres high, can be spotted, followed slightly to the left in the far distance by the conical shape of the 5930-metre Licancabur volcano. The flat area in front, at an altitude of 5000 metres, is the Chajnantor Plateau, the ALMA Array Operations Site. Here the 66 ALMA antennas can be ...
potw1115 — Picture of the Week
ESO Headquarters at Sunset*
11 April 2011: This panorama photograph shows the European Southern Observatory’s Headquarters in Garching, near Munich, Germany. The image shows the view from the roof of the main building just after sunset. This is the scientific, technical and administrative centre for ESO’s operations, and the base from which many astronomers conduct their research. The scientists, technicians and administrators who work here come from many different backgrounds, but all have one thing in common: a passion for astronomy. ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. ESO operates telescopes at three observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. In addition, Cerro Armazones, near Paranal has been selected as the site for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). ESO provides state-of-the-art research facilities to astronomers and is supported by Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, ...
potw1114 — Picture of the Week
Bridging the Abyss
4 April 2011: Deep in the Chilean Atacama Desert, far from sources of light pollution and other people-related disturbances, there is a tranquil sky like few others on Earth. This is the site for the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, a scientific machine at the cutting-edge of technology. In this panoramic photograph, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds — satellite galaxies of our own — glow brightly on the left, while the VLT’s Unit Telescope 1 stands vigil on the right. Appearing to bridge the gap between them is the Milky Way, the plane of our own galaxy. The seemingly countless stars give a sense of the true scale of the cosmos. Every night ESO astronomers rise to the challenge of studying this vista to make sense of the Universe. This awe-inspiring image was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Yuri Beletsky. Born in Belarus, Yuri now lives in Chile where he works ...
potw1113 — Picture of the Week
ALMA: Greater than the Sum of its Parts
28 March 2011: When completed, the antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) will be spread across the Chajnantor plateau in the Chilean Andes over distances of up to 16 kilometres, but they will work in unison, to form what is known as an interferometer. In doing so, ALMA will be more powerful than the sum of its parts, acting like a single giant telescope as large as the whole collection of antennas. The 66 ALMA antennas are not all the same. A main array of fifty antennas with 12-metre dishes will be complemented by the Atacama Compact Array (ACA) of twelve smaller 7-metre dishes and four additional 12-metre dishes. The ACA dishes are being constructed by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO). Three of them are shown in this photograph of the MELCO Site Erection Facility at the ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF) site. The OSF is at an altitude of 2900 metres, ...
potw1112 — Picture of the Week
Supermoon over ESO's Very Large Telescope
21 March 2011: The night of 19 March saw an unusual coincidence of astronomical events: the full Moon occurred at almost exactly the same time as the Moon was closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit (the point called perigee). The combination of the Moon being both full and relatively close to the Earth made it look significantly bigger and brighter than usual. This panoramic photograph, taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Gerd Hüdepohl, captures this so-called "supermoon" as seen from Cerro Paranal, home of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT).On the right, in the east, the Moon rises over the mountains, while the setting Sun is visible on the left of the panorama, sinking in the west below the clouds over the Pacific Ocean. Its last rays illuminate the four giant VLT Unit Telescope buildings, the smaller VLT Survey Telescope building, the four round VLT Auxiliary Telescope enclosures, and the Paranal staff who have ...
potw1111 — Picture of the Week
ALMA Antennas Reach Double Digits at Chajnantor
14 March 2011: The number of antennas for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) on the Chajnantor plateau has now reached double digits! The tenth antenna was moved up from the Operations Support Facility at an altitude of 2900 metres to the Array Operations Site at 5000 metres, high in the Chilean Andes, on 4 March 2011 using one of the ALMA transporter vehicles. ALMA is a telescope designed to observe millimetre- and submillimetre-wavelength light with its array of antenna dishes. Using a technique called interferometry, ALMA acts like a single giant telescope as large as the whole set of antennas. Thanks to the transporter vehicles, the antennas can be arranged in different configurations, where the maximum separation between them varies from 150 metres to 16 kilometres. The distant viewpoint of this photograph is necessary for one to see all ten of the antennas in a single shot. Nine of them, including the ...
potw1110 — Picture of the Week
A Quartet of ALMA Antennas Placed Close Together
7 March 2011: The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) antennas may look rooted to the ground in this striking image — taken at the Array Operations Site on the Chajnantor plateau, at an altitude of 5000 metres — but these dishes are surprisingly mobile. Thanks to the two antenna transporter vehicles, the antennas in the array — which will consist of a total of 66 dishes when construction is complete — can be repositioned to meet the needs of a particular observation project. The transporters, named Otto and Lore, were specially designed to transport the hefty 115-tonne antennas and position them precisely on concrete foundation pads, spread across the plateau over distances of up to 16 kilometres. Here, four antennas have been placed on closely spaced pads for testing during the Commissioning and Science Verification phase of ALMA construction. The transporter vehicles drive on 28 tyres, with two 700-HP (500 kW) diesel engines ...
potw1109 — Picture of the Week
ALMA Antennas Stand Together
28 February 2011: ALMA antennas stand side by side, built strong to withstand the unforgiving environment of the Chajnantor plateau, high in the Chilean Andes. At an altitude of 5000 m, the ALMA dishes — a total of 66 when construction is completed — will face strong winds and harsh sunlight, all without the safe haven of a protective dome. The temperature can vary by 40 degrees Celsius, dipping well below freezing and occasionally allowing snow to fall, as can be seen dusting the landscape in the background of this photograph. The ALMA project is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ESO is the European partner in ALMA. This photograph was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador José Francisco Salgado. Links ESO Photo Ambassadors webpage.
potw1108 — Picture of the Week
ALMA antennas under the Milky Way
21 February 2011: Four antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) gaze up at the star-filled night sky, in anticipation of the work that lies ahead. The Moon lights the scene on the right, while the band of the Milky Way stretches across the upper left. ALMA is being constructed at an altitude of 5000 m on the Chajnantor plateau in the Atacama Desert in Chile. This is one of the driest places on Earth and this dryness, combined with the thin atmosphere at high altitude, offers superb conditions for observing the Universe at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths. At these long wavelengths, astronomers can probe, for example, molecular clouds, which are dense regions of gas and dust where new stars are born when a cloud collapses under its own gravity. Currently, the Universe remains relatively unexplored at submillimetre wavelengths, so astronomers expect to uncover many new secrets about star formation, as well ...
potw1107 — Picture of the Week
A Galactic Petri Dish
14 February 2011: This rich scattering of galaxies was captured using the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The thousands of galaxies contained in this small area of sky give a glimpse into the Universe’s distant past, whilst also acting as a powerful reminder of the immense scale of the cosmos. This image was taken as part of the COMBO-17 project (Classifying Objects by Medium-Band Observations in 17 Filters), in which detailed surveys of five small patches of sky were made through 17 different coloured filters. The area of sky covered by each of the five regions is about the same area as that covered by the full Moon. The survey has produced a remarkable haul of celestial specimens. For example, across just three of these regions over 25 000 galaxies have been identified. Just below the bright stars in the centre of ...
potw1106 — Picture of the Week
HAWK-I Instrument Spies a Super Galaxy
7 February 2011: The HAWK-I instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile has been used to great effect in producing this distinctive image of the distant galaxy NGC 157. Boasting a central sweep of stars resembling a giant "S", reminiscent of the comic book hero Superman’s symbol, this celestial spiral is indeed a super example of how new technology is helping us to learn more about the cosmos. HAWK-I stands for High-Acuity Wide-field K-band Imager, and it is one of the latest and most powerful instruments on the VLT. It detects infrared light, allowing us to peer through the gas and dust that normally obscures our view. This reveals an otherwise hidden view of the Universe, and gives astronomers the opportunity to study dense areas of star formation. Learning more about star formation is an important step towards expanding our understanding of our own origins. The same ...
potw1105 — Picture of the Week
From One "Alien World" to Another
31 January 2011: What looks like a barren and inhospitable alien landscape in this 360-degree panorama is in fact the site for ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT for short. When construction begins the uninhabited mountaintop left of the centre will become a hive of activity as engineers, technicians and scientists work on building the world’s biggest eye on the sky. In many ways Chile’s Cerro Armazones may seem like an alien world. The environment is harsh, with low humidity and air pressure, a blazing Sun during the day, but breathtaking skies at night. Cerro Armazones is in the Atacama Desert — one of the driest places on Earth. These conditions, combined with its remoteness, are what make the region such an excellent location for telescopes. Armazones is an isolated peak, 3060 metres above sea level. It is about 20 km away from Cerro Paranal, home of ESO's famous Very Large Telescope. ...
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