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Dramatic Moonset
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Dramatic Moonset

June 9, 2010
Amazing Sight on Cerro Paranal, Home of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT)

As the full Moon sets, the Sun is about to rise on the opposite horizon. The VLT has already closed its eyes after a long night of observations, and telescope operators and astronomers sleep while technicians, engineers and day astronomers wake up for a new day of work. Operations never stop at the most productive astronomical ground-based observatory in the world.

ESO staff member Gordon Gillet welcomed the new day by capturing this stunning image from 14 km away, on the road to the nearby Cerro Armazones, the peak recently chosen by the ESO Council as the preferred location for the planned 42-meter European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).

Contrary to what one may think, this picture is no montage. The Moon appears large because it is seen close to the horizon and our perception is deceived by the proximity of references on the ground. In order to get this spectacular close view, a 500-mm lens was necessary. The very long focal length reduces the depth of field making the objects in focus appear as if they were at the same distance. This effect, combined with the extraordinary quality of this picture, gives the impression that the Moon lies on the VLT platform, just behind the telescopes, even though it is in fact about 30 000 times further away.