Home is where the telescopes are

Welcome to ESO’s La Silla Observatory, home to several telescopes since the 1960s and the setting of this Picture of the Week. Located 600 km north of Chile’s capital Santiago, La Silla sits at around 2400 meters above sea level.

More than just the telescopes live at this idyllic location: the staff who run them do too. Astronomers, engineers and support staff spend shifts of several days working on-site, and the buildings in the foreground allow them to live, work and relax in the harsh conditions of the Atacama desert. The building at the centre contains bedrooms, a canteen, a gym and a cinema room, among other facilities. On the left we can see dormitories where visiting astronomers can rest after a long night observing the cosmos. Meanwhile, the long white building right at the bottom is the New Operations Building, from which the New Technology Telescope (NTT), ESO 3.6-metre and MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescopes are controlled.

These telescopes, amongst others found on this remote mountain, are heavy hitters in the astronomical world. Perched at the highest point is the ESO 3.6-metre telescope, famed for hosting one of the world’s foremost extrasolar planet hunters: the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument. Another groundbreaker is the NTT, which was a first leap in the field of active optics: telescope mirrors are so heavy that they bend under their own weight, but with active optics we can adjust their shape during observations, delivering optimal image quality.



About the Image

Release date:21 August 2023, 06:00
Size:3840 x 2160 px

About the Object

Name:La Silla
Type:Unspecified : Technology : Observatory
Category:La Silla

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