Cerro Paranal is a 2 635 metre high mountain in the Chilean Atacama Desert.
Looking akin to Mars, with its red sand and lack of vegetation, the Atacama Desert is thought to be the driest place on Earth. The high-altitude site and extreme dryness make excellent conditions for astronomical observations. Paranal is home to ESO’s Very Large Telescope, which is the world’s most advanced optical observatory.
Paranal will soon also host two survey telescopes, the VST (operating at visible wavelengths) and VISTA (operating at infrared wavelengths). Such telescopes take images of large portions of the sky, finding variable objects, mapping the distribution of galaxies, and providing interesting targets for the giant eyes of the VLT.
Credit: G. Hudepohl Credit: Y. Beltsky