eso9947 — Photo Release
Solitude of an Observatory
Panoramic View with La Silla
26 October 1999
The La Silla Observatory is located in the Chilean Atacama Desert, one of the driest and loneliest areas of the world. The land around this isolated peak was acquired in 1964 and following some years of construction work, the inauguration of ESO's first observatory took place just over 30 years ago, in March 1969. The solitude of this remote desert site is well illustrated by the above panorama, obtained in 1996.
While some of the smaller telescopes have been closed during recent years, front-line observations continue with the larger telescopes, aided by a multitude of new and improved astronomical instruments. The largest is the ESO 3.6-m telescope with the ADONIS Adaptive Optics unit, the CES high-resolution spectrograph, the EFOSC2 and soon also the TIMMI2 infrared instrument. A new project for this telescope is the HARPS high-accuracy radial velocity spectrograph. The 3.6-m New Technology Telescope (NTT) operates with the SUSI camera and the multimode EMMI (visual) and SOFI (infrared) instruments.
The MPG/ESO 2.2-m/WFI wide-field facility, as well as the 1.52-m telescope with the new FEROS spectrograph and the Danish 1.54-m telescope with the multi-mode DFOSC instrument are also very productive.
The same is true for the 15-m Swedish-ESO submillimetre Telescope which will next receive a new bolometric array that will pave the way for ALMA. The newly installed Swiss 1.2-m Leonard Euler telescope with the CORALIE echelle spectrograph is successfully "hunting" for planets around other stars. Some other, smaller telescopes are also used for specialised tasks.
While most of the observations with these facilities concern research projects in their own right, others are oriented towards preparatory projects for subsequent VLT programmes.
As other observatories in this geographical area, La Silla is located far from sources of disturbing light and, as the Paranal Observatory that houses the VLT, it has one of the darkest night skies on the Earth.
High-quality photographic prints of this panorama (approx. 4.40 m x 0.50 m) will soon become available from the ESO EPR Dept.. The price will depend on the number of orders received. Please contact Mrs. E. Völk (Tel: +4989-32006276; Fax: +4989-3202362; firstname.lastname@example.org) for further details.