Anything but black

ESO’s various observatory sites in Chile — Paranal, La Silla, Chajnantor — boast enviably low levels of light pollution. However, the skies overhead are rarely pitch-black!

As shown in this image of Paranal Observatory, the skies regularly display a myriad of colours and astronomical sights, from the plane of the Milky Way shining brightly overhead to the orange-hued speck of Mars (left), the starry constellations of Scorpius and Orion, and the magenta splash of the Carina Nebula (upper middle). Despite the remote location there are also occasional signs of human activity, for example the sequence of lamps seen in the centre of the frame. These faint lights illuminate the route from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) where this image was taken.

Due to the highly sensitive camera this photograph also showcases a mysterious phenomenon called airglow. The night sky is ablaze with deep red and eerie green hues, caused by the faint glow of Earth’s atmosphere. Because of airglow, no observatory site on Earth could ever be absolutely, completely dark — although ESO’s do come pretty close.

This image was taken by talented astronomer and photographer Yuri Beletsky, a member of the 2016 ESO Fulldome Expedition team. This team visited Chile to gather spectacular images for use in the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre.

Credit:

Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO

About the Image

Id:potw1638a
Type:Photographic
Release date:19 September 2016, 06:00
Size:23111 x 9806 px

About the Object

Name:Cerro Paranal, Milky Way, Paranal
Type:Milky Way : Sky Phenomenon : Night Sky
Unspecified : Technology : Observatory : Facility
Category:Paranal

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