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Recent Photos from the Paranal Observatory Illustrate Rapid VLT Progress
02 Qershor 1997
The installation of the ESO Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in the Chilean Atacama desert is proceeding rapidly. The moment of first light of the first 8.2-metre telescope is getting closer and activities in Paranal and at the ESO Headquarters in Garching are becoming ever more intense.
The present series of six technical photos were taken during the past days and illustrate the excellent progress of this work at Paranal. They form part of a larger series prepared by Peter Gray from ESO who is in charge of the Assembly Integration Verification. The text below is based on his most recent report (May 28, 1997). Please note that since these photos were electronically recorded and were primarily obtained to document these activities, they are not of full professional quality for photographic reproduction. However, a comprehensive series of high-resolution photos for reproduction by the media will appear at the ESO Website in July 1997.
During the recent weeks there have been lots of activity at Paranal in all areas: basecamp buildings, power station, as well as the telescope area, interferometry tunnel civil works, telescope enclosures and finally, the telescope structures themselves.
Of particular interest are the developments around the UT1 telescope which is growing in size both horizontally and vertically. Recently, the outer parts of the baseframe and the remainder of the hydrostatic bearings and pipework have been installed. Thus the entire top of the pier is now filled-in by the large circular structure of the azimuth baseframe.
Last week, the four big frames forming the base of the altitude pedestals were added. These are known as the Lower Intermediate Structure . It was found to be advantageous to install all four pieces in one go. This was done by dragging the pieces to the back of the shutter with large cable winches. All four lower intermediate structure pieces are now in the UT1 and are being carefully aligned with the azimuth axis. The pre-assembly of the altitude bearings has also started.
Assembly work on the UT2 telescope structure has also begun in parallel to the UT1 activities, although UT1 obviously has the highest priority. Elsewhere on the mountain, the civil work continues on the auxiliary telescope foundations and the light beam tunnels. Some of the tunnels near UT1-2 have been completed and recovered with earth. This will improve access around the mountaintop which has been somewhat difficult because of all the excavation work.
In the control building, the framework for the outer cladding and roof is being installed. In other parts of that building, installation of the switchboards and transformers of the power supply is proceeding. Behind the control building, the retaining wall is finished.
The UT1 enclosure itself is undergoing the last fine tuning and commissioning. This includes adjusting and testing the computer control of the enclosure mechanisms including the enclosure rotation, shutter, windscreen and cooling liquid system. The UT1 enclosure looks more and more like a real telescope enclosure and less like a construction site. Construction and assembly work also continues on the UT2-3-4 enclosures which are in progressive states of completion.