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Swirling Star Trails
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Swirling Star Trails

April 1, 2013
This image from ESO Photo Ambassador Farid Char, of the southern night sky over the Residencia “hotel” at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile, presents a beautifully star-filled and dynamic view of the heavens.

To make the swirling star trails on this image, Farid used a 30-minute exposure to reveal the observed movement of the stars due to the rotation of the Earth. In the center is the apparently still point of the south celestial pole. On the left, and at the top of the image, are the extended blurs of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, neighboring galaxies of the Milky Way.

The dark glass dome below the circling stars is part of the roof of the Residencia building. This unique partially subterranean construction has been in use since 2002 by scientists and engineers working at the observatory. During the day, the 35-meter-wide dome allows natural daylight into the building.

At the observatory, located on a mountain at an elevation of 2600 meters in the arid Atacama Desert, the excellent astronomical conditions come at a price. People there face intense sunlight during the day, very low humidity, and the high altitude can leave them short of breath. To help them relax and rehydrate after long shifts on the mountaintop, there is an artificial oasis at the Residencia, with a small garden, a swimming pool that humidifies the air, a lounge, a dining room, and other recreational facilities. The building can accommodate over 100 people.

Credit: ESO/F. Char



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