Timelapse: Cerro Paranal Skies Above the VLT

This is one of the best timelapse videos of the year, showing ESO’s Very Large Telescope in action and the gorgeous skies above the observatory on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The footage was taken on location by Stephane Guisard and Jose Francisco Salgado of ESO.

7 Replies to “Timelapse: Cerro Paranal Skies Above the VLT”

  1. Does anyone know what the yellow laser? light is used for; it appears a few times to be pointing directly up.
    Also, I wonder what all the many small windows? are used for on the telescopes and why they keep opening and closing, they seem at the wrong height for pointing a telescope out of.

    Wonderful video BTW.

    1. The laser is used to create an artificial star in the sky. This in turn can be used to correct the images for atmospheric blurring (movement of the air that disturbs the picture – astronomers speak of “seeing”) in real time. It makes ground-based observations possible that are better than the HST!
      The upcoming monster-scope E-ELT (40m primary mirror!) will have 4 of these so-called guide-star-lasers.

    2. The laser beam is a stream of pulses, where each pulse has a phase wave front. The wave front is a plane where perpendicular to that plane is the direction of propagation. A lens has the effect of bending the wave front into another shape. As an example a convex lens bends the plane into a converging bowl shape so the perpendicular vectors point to a single point. This wave front passes through layers of atmosphere and is distorted into a shape different from the flat plane. The laser beam reflects off the sodium layer in the stratosphere and is picked up by ground optics which detects the bending of the wave front. These data are run through a digital Fourier process to compute the net scattering form factor of the atmosphere. This data is then fed to controllers of a flexible secondary mirror to exactly compensate for the atmospheric optical distortion.


  2. Indeed, this is ine of the best timelapses videos of the year, and one of the reason we, at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO), decided to prepare our own timelapse video of the Southern Sky. Starring the famous Australian Astronomical Telescope (AAT) at Siding Spring Observatory (NSW, Australia), you can see this timelapse video from the AAO website, http://www.aao.gov.au/press/timelapse/ , and in the official YouTube channel of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research of the Australian Government, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mRMj52V4DM

    Cheers from Spain and the best for 2012!

    Dr. Angel R. Lopez-Sanchez
    Australian Astronomical Observatory
    Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia).

Comments are closed.