A golden halo around the ELT

It might look like the opening scene from The Lion King, but this stunning Picture of the Week was actually taken in the Chilean Atacama Desert rather than the African savannas. Taking centre stage is ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), or part of it, at least.

The ELT’s steel dome is about 80 metres tall and one day it will play host to the world’s biggest eye on the sky. When finished, the dome will weigh some 6100 tonnes and be capable of rotating 360 degrees on a set of 36 stationary trolleys. 

This spectacular photograph of the sunrise over Cerro Armazones, the ELT’s perch, was shot on 29 August from around 23 kilometres away on top of another famous mountain: Cerro Paranal, home to the ELT’s older sibling, ESO’s Very Large Telescope, or VLT. You could say the stars were aligned for this image: since the position of the sunrise changes throughout the year as the Earth moves around the Sun, there’s only a narrow window of time when the sunrise frames the ELT if observed from Paranal. 

What’s more, if you look carefully, you can just about make out two sunspots on the Sun’s surface. These dark, cooler regions are formed by intense magnetic fields. While they may look small from this distance, in reality they’re the size of planets.



E. Garcés/ESO. Ack.: N. Dubost

About the Image

Release date:4 September 2023, 06:00
Size:5690 x 3626 px

About the Object

Name:Extremely Large Telescope, Sun
Type:Unspecified : Sky Phenomenon : Light Phenomenon : Sunrise-Sunset
Unspecified : Technology : Observatory : Telescope

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