Shooting a Laser at the Galactic Center
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Shooting a Laser at the Galactic Center

November 9, 2010
This impressive image, taken on 10 May 2010 by ESO astronomer Yuri Beletsky, beautifully depicts the sky above Paranal. One of the 8.2-meter telescopes of ESO's Very Large Telescope, Yepun, Unit Telescope 4, is seen against the wonderful backdrop of the myriad of stars and dust that makes up the Milky Way. A laser beam is coming out of Yepun, aiming perfectly at the Galactic Center. When used with the adaptive optics system the artificial star created by the beam allows the telescope to obtain images and spectra that are free from the blurring effect of the atmosphere. When this image was taken, astronomers Stefan Gillessen and Hauke Enkel were using the SINFONI instrument, together with the laser guide star facility, to study the center of our Milky Way, where a supermassive black hole is lurking.

The field of view of the image is very wide, about 180 degrees. One of the 1.8-meter Auxiliary Telescopes used for interferometry can be seen on the right.

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