Silver and blue at Paranal

What might count as a beautifully clear day anywhere else in the world is actually an unusually cloudy day at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert. As this is one of the driest places on the planet, it is very uncommon to see clouds in the sky. Many astronomers and engineers who spend time at the site find the cloudless sky one of the most striking things about working in the Atacama Desert. This gorgeous 360-degree panorama photo, taken by ESO contractor Dirk Essl in 15 separate exposures, has captured one of the rare days with clouds at Paranal. A few thin, wispy cirrus clouds can be seen above the enclosures of the Very Large Telescope. These clouds form at high altitudes and are made up of tiny ice crystals.

Paranal Observatory receives less than 10 millimetres of rainfall per year, which is just one of the reasons why this 2600-metre-high mountain was chosen as the site for ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). This panorama includes the four large Unit Telescopes of the VLT as well as the four smaller Auxiliary Telescopes in their rounded enclosures, one in the foreground and the other three further away. The tracks on the ground are there so that the the Auxiliary Telescopes can be moved into different positions.

Dirk submitted this photograph to the Your ESO Pictures Flickr group. The Flickr group is regularly reviewed and the best photos are selected to be featured in our popular Picture of the Week series, or in our gallery.



ESO/D. Essl

About the Image

Release date:22 April 2013, 10:00
Size:5775 x 884 px
Field of View:360° x 55.1°

About the Object

Name:Panorama, Very Large Telescope
Type:Unspecified : Planet : Feature : Atmosphere : Cloud
Unspecified : Technology : Observatory : Telescope
Category:360 Panorama

Image Formats

Large JPEG
1.4 MB
Publication JPEG
662.7 KB
Screensize JPEG
67.8 KB



193.0 KB
270.1 KB
354.1 KB
415.4 KB
490.5 KB