13 of our favourite astronomical photos

Sharing Your ESO Pictures with the world

8 March 2019
What you’ll discover in this blog post:
  • That ESO’s observatories and the skies above them provide incredible photo opportunities
  • That ESO has a Flickr group called Your ESO Pictures
  • Which of Your ESO Pictures ESO’s outreach team chose as their favourites and why
Our staff and visitors seem to find taking photos at our stunning locations irresistible. And what breathtaking photos they are! To give both professional and budding photographers the chance to share their images with the world, we created a Flickr group called Your ESO Pictures. For this week’s blog post, ESO’s outreach team was given the tricky task of choosing their favourite photos from this group.

Sunset VLT
With rain being rare at Paranal Observatory, capturing this fantastic shot could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. ESO’s Public Information Officer Calum Turner chose this image because he thinks that clouds are often underappreciated, and that this photo is a stunning example of how the sky can make any view look dramatic. The image was also selected by intern Stephen Molyneux, who loved the combination of the rainfall, the sunset and the Very Large Telescope’s Auxiliary Telescopes.
Photographer: Juan-Carlos Munoz-Mateos
Credit: ESO/Juan-Carlos Munoz-Mateos
SEST blue
This close-up of the Swedish-ESO Submillimetre Telescope at La Silla Observatory gives us an incredible view of the smaller panels that make up a huge 15-metre-wide dish. The futuristic image was also selected by Calum Turner for its beautiful colours and the contrast of the white “spiders” against the blue background.
Photographer: Carlos A. Durán.
Credit: ESO/Carlos A. Durán
This stereo-pair image can be seen in 3D using the free fusion method, which involves looking at one side with the left eye and one with the right. It was selected by Assistant Public Information Officer, Alvaro Caseiro de Almeida, because it gives us a whole new way of looking at the Orion Nebula, one of the most beautiful objects in the night sky. When Alvaro looks at the Orion Nebula, he sees a majestic eagle — what do you see?
Photographer: Bill Davis
Credit: Bill Davis
Cerro Paranal sunset
Sunset at the world’s largest optical observatory. On top of Cerro Paranal (the highest mountain in this image), the giant Very Large Telescope can be seen silhouetted against a stunning sky. Also selected by Oana Sandu, this image was taken by ESO’s Director of Programmes and conveys the vast and barren nature of Northern Chile’s Atacama Desert.
Photographer: Ade Russell
Credit: ESO/Ade Russell
Guided by the light
The Very Large Telescope in action at Paranal Observatory. This remarkable image was chosen by ESA/Hubble Public Information Officer, Mathias Jäger, because it really shows off the connection between modern telescopes, lasers, the starry sky and the human. Mathias loves that despite having the opportunity to use some of the best telescopes in the world, this astronomer still appreciates admiring the stars with the naked eye.
Photographer: Daniele Gasparri
Credit: ESO/Daniele Gasparri
Pacman and the Moon
Taken at sunset, this image captures one of the VLT’s Auxiliary Telescopes at the start of a long night of hard work. Intern Stephen Molyneux liked this image because the telescope looks like Pacman about to swallow up the Moon!
Photographer: Eric Lagadec
Credit: ESO/Eric Lagadec
ALMA in the snow
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) can be found working hard in the toughest of conditions. Intern Laura Hiscott chose this image because it reminds her that the Sun is just like any other star in the Universe — something that we often forget. This image provides a fresh perspective on our home, reminding us how lucky we are that life flourished on this little planet that orbits just one of the many stars in the Universe. The clouds and snow also provide a sense of wonder of the beauty and power of Earth.
Photographer: Sergio Otarola
Credit: ESO/Sergio Otarola
Light play at ALMA
ALMA’s huge dishes could easily form the backdrop to a science fiction movie. Chosen by Oana Sandu, Community Coordinator and Outreach Strategy Officer, this image plays on this theme by using light to “paint” a sci-fi image in the foreground.
Photographer: Juan Carlos Rojas
Credit: ESO/Juan Carlos Rojas
ALMA reflection
Deep in the Atacama Desert, at an altitude of 5000 metres, where the air is thin and the temperature is cold — working at ALMA isn’t easy. This image was selected by Calum Turner, because it gives us a unique perspective that really shows how tough the working conditions are there.
Photographer: Juan Carlos Rojas
Credit: ESO/Juan Carlos Rojas
Supernatural figures float over the ALMA dishes. Graphics and animations expert, Martin Kornmesser, chose this image because he was touched by the ghostly feel blended with the Star Wars-like surrounding. He feels that it looks like something really special is going on at this place.
Photographer: Juan Carlos Rojas
Credit: ESO/Juan Carlos Rojas
Fox at ALMA site
Foxes are often seen wandering the Atacama Desert, home to ESO’s telescopes, and this one seems to have made itself very comfortable between the ALMA dishes. Javier Enciso of ESO’s web team chose this image because of the cunning expression on the fox´s face — what does he know that we don’t?
Photographer: Peter Pedersen
Credit: ESO/Peter Pedersen
The Milky Way from Paranal
The Milky Way from the entrance to Residencia, home away from home for astronomers observing at Paranal Observatory. Chosen by Oana Sandu, this photo shows off the night sky splendidly, with the galaxy running almost directly along the main entrance corridor. This gives us a magnificent view of the Milky Way’s glittering stars and dramatic clouds of dark dust and gas.
Photographer: Juan-Carlos Munos-Mateos
Credit: ESO/Juan-Carlos Munoz-Mateos

Would you like to see even more spectacular astronomical photographs? Perhaps you have your own ESO images that you would like to share? Have a look at the Your ESO Pictures Flickr group to find out more.

Nicole Shearer

Biography Nicole Shearer

Among other roles, Nicole Shearer works as a Public Information Officer assistant at the European Southern Observatory. She studied Physics and Astronomy at Durham University, specialising in the public communication of astronomy. For ESO she develops various public engagement products, and helped with the preparation and testing of the education programme for the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre. Previously she worked in the Education department of the European Space Agency.