eso0112 — Organisation Release
A High-Tech Oasis in the Desert
Very-Wide-Angle View of the Paranal Area
23 March 2001
For hundreds of years, probably even longer, astronomers have sought the solitude, far from the disturbing influence of other human activities. Not without reason, their remote observatories have sometimes been likened with monasteries, sacred sites where man is closer to the skies and himself.
Imagine the incredible silence of the desert, only now and then broken by feeble wind gusts. Sense the fading light as the sun sinks towards the distant horizon behind the enormous expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Rich colours develop in the clear and dry desert atmosphere while deep shadows move across the empty land. Marvel at the soft and subtle shades reflected by the layers of clouds above the ocean, far below. The sun sets fast at this low latitude and when the last rays are gone, you feel the chill of the evening air. Slowly, you become aware of increased activity in the distance - now is the moment when another hard night's work is about to begin.
This is the place where ESO operates the VLT - the Paranal Observatory.
This panoramic view has been assembled in the classical way from 8 individual exposures, taken with an overlap of approximately 30% on either side. This is necessary to achieve a smooth blending of the sky and to correct the different perspective projections in each image frame. The resulting field-of-view is approximately 190°. The exposures were taken in rapid succession from a site near the water tanks at the time of the setting sun, beginning from the East (to the right), in order to compensate for the huge differences in contrast while shooting in the direction of and against the sunlight. KODAK Ektachrome Professional 200 roll film was used with a Linhof Super Technika 6 x 9 camera, fitted with a Schneider-Kreuznach S-Symmar 5.6/100mm lens. The selected frames were scanned by a Polaroid Sprintscan 45i and composed on a G3 Power Macintosh computer in Adobe Photoshop, supported with 1 GB of RAM.
My special thanks go to the Engineering Department at Paranal for moving the four telescopes into a photogenic position, to the astronomers who donated some precious minutes of calibration time and also to the safety officer who drove me and my bulky equipment uphill to this site.
Hans Hermann Heyer (ESO EPR Dept.)
CD-ROM with the original file available
To allow optimal reproduction, also for professional use, a new CD-ROM is now available from the EPR Dept., with the full data set of this panoramic photo (23457 x 3496 pix, or 497 x 74 cm at 120 ppi; RGB TIFF; 235 Mb). It also contains a similar photo of the ESO La Silla Observatory (ESO Press Photo eso9947 ; 17500 x 1983 pix; or 440 x 50 cm at 100 ppi; RGB TIFF; 99 Mb).