Moonlit Panorama at La Silla
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Moonlit Panorama at La Silla

April 11, 2010
This panoramic image shows the La Silla observatory glistening under the cool glow of moonlight. Because the image wraps around almost a full 360 degrees, the angle of the lighting becomes downright surreal ; notice how the photographer's shadow seems to stretch towards the Moon, and how the shiny ESO 3.6-meter telescope in the foreground appears to reflect light from a source located opposite the Moon. Fortunately, such optical trickery does not trouble La Silla's fleet of telescopes, which reside at an altitude of 2,400 meters in the arid Chilean Atacama Desert. In fact, La Silla's MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope has snapped some of astronomy's iconic images with the Wide Field Imager (WFI) camera. Also at this observatory, the 3.58-meter New Technology Telescope (NTT) broke new ground for telescope engineering and design and was the first in the world to have a computer-controlled main mirror (active optics), a technology developed at ESO and now applied to most of the world's current large telescopes. A spectrograph called HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher), mounted on the ESO 3.6-meter telescope, stands as the world's foremost exoplanet hunter. La Silla, ESO's first observatory, remains at the cutting-edge of astronomical discovery.

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