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Thunderbolts and lightning

In this electrifying image, taken on Friday 7 June 2013, a furious thunderstorm is discharging its mighty rage over Cerro Paranal. The colossal enclosures of the four VLT Unit Telescopes, each one the size of an eight-storey building, are dwarfed under the hammering of the powerful storm.

In the left of the image, a solitary star has emerged to witness the show — a single point of light against an obscured sky. This star is Procyon, a bright binary star in the constellation of Canis Minor (The Lesser Dog).

Clouds over ESO’s Paranal Observatory are a rare sight. On average, the site experiences an astonishing 330 clear days every year. Lightning is even rarer, as the observatory is located in one of the driest places in the world: the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile, 2600 metres above sea level. If there are any clouds, most of the time the observatory stands above them.

Over a 16-year period working as an engineer on Paranal, ESO photo ambassador Gerhard Hüdepohl had seen lightning there just once before — so he grabbed his camera and ventured out into the elements to capture this unique sight.

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About the Image

Id:potw1324a
Type:Photographic
Release date:17 June 2013, 10:00
Size:7360 x 4912 px

About the Object

Name:Cerro Paranal, Very Large Telescope
Type:• Solar System : Sky Phenomenon : Light Phenomenon : Lightning
• Unspecified : Technology : Observatory
• X - Paranal

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