June 2010 — Moonlit panorama at La Silla
This panoramic image shows the La Silla observatory glistening under the cool glow of moonlight. Because the image wraps around almost a full 360 degrees, the angle of the lighting becomes downright surreal; notice how the photographer’s shadow seems to stretch towards the Moon, and how the shiny ESO 3.6-metre telescope in the foreground appears to reflect light from a source located opposite the Moon. Fortunately, such optical trickery does not trouble La Silla’s fleet of telescopes, which reside at an altitude of 2400 metres in the arid Chilean Atacama Desert. In fact, La Silla’s MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope has snapped some of astronomy’s iconic images with the Wide Field Imager camera. A spectrograph called HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher), mounted on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope, stands as the world’s foremost exoplanet hunter. La Silla, ESO’s first observatory, remains at the cutting-edge of astronomical discovery
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