VLT is one of the Earth’s largest optical observing telescopes. It is located at the Paranal Observatory, in the Atacama desert, Chile, at an altitude of about 2600 meters. Compared to the highest mountain in Greece, Olympus, it is about 300m lower than its summit.
It is one of the largest projects in the world with 4 large telescopes with mirrors that have a diameter of 8.2 meters and 4 smaller ones with a diameter of 1.8m. All of these can work simultaneously and combine their observations but also autonomously.
When observations are made from Earth, the light that reaches us passes through the layers of the atmosphere. That is, it passes through different layers of air which are not uniform and constantly changing. This can cause various errors in the photographs of the observations, i.e. in one frame, a star may not appear in the same position. We have found a way to correct this by sending a laser into the atmosphere that measures this decay and as it returns back it measures this error and allows the star to be in the same position throughout the observation.
Various ground-breaking observations and many firsts in the world of observational astronomy have been made with these telescopes. Examples are the first exoplanet photograph, the measurement of the orbits of stars around our galaxy’s black hole, and the observation of the light after the γ-ray burst, the most distant ever recorded.
Astronomers need a place to stay as the telescope area is in adverse conditions – desert and high altitude with low oxygen levels, which causes dizziness for example.
Therefore, on the way to the observatory and to get used to the lack of oxygen, they stay for a few days in the middle of the route at the Hotel Residencia, to make the transition easier and for the time away from the observations.
😃 Fun Fact: This hotel has received many awards and we should also mention that the James Bond movie was filmed there. (James Bond went to Paranal, but not yet at 2900m of Olympus!)
We thank the friend of the page dr. Ignacio for the wonderful photos.
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