Interferometry will produce the sharpest images (1998)

Astronomers have long sought to improve the sensitivity and spatial resolution of their observations in order to see as far back in time and as sharply as possible.

One of the most exciting features of the VLT is the possibility to use it as a giant optical interferometer.

The VLT Interferometric Array (VLTI) with its four giant telescopes with main mirros of 8.2-m diameter and several 1.8-m auxiliary telescopes will represent the most sensitive interferometric device in the world. It will have a spatial resolution equivalent to that of a 200 meter diameter telescope covering the complete surface of Cerro Paranal. It would in principle be able to see an astronaut on the surface of the Moon, 400,000 km away.

This schematic representation of the VLTI components shows how light from the telescopes (in the form of collimated beams) is directed underground towards the delay-line tunnel and comes together in the centrally located Interferometric Laboratory. This is where the sharpest optical astronomical images of all times will be recorded.

The VLTI is expected to lead to a wealth of exciting scientific results ranging from the direct detection of planets around nearby stars that are separated from the parent star by more than a few milliarcseconds, to the nuclei of active galaxies.

It is foreseen that when VLTI will become fully operational in the 2005 - 2010 time frame, a majority of astronomical observations will be carried out with this unique facility.



About the Image

Release date:18 February 2011, 15:31
Size:3000 x 1995 px

About the Object

Name:Paranal, Very Large Telescope
Type:Unspecified : Technology : Observatory : Telescope

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