Today in pretty space pics: a whirling image of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope and the stars above it circling the southern celestial pole. It’s less a space pic than an Earth pic depicting really cool space searching technology. And it’s absolutely breathtaking.
The VLT sits at Cerro Paranal in Chile’s Atacama Desert, where it is high and dry enough that moisture in the air doesn’t interfere with the incoming light streaming into the telescope from the far reaches of the universe. This image captures the VLT array’s four 27-foot telescopes in a kind of time lapse. It was actually stitched together from 450 invdividual 20-second exposures taken over more than two hours, creating the effect you see here. The telescopes appear to be moving because they are–throughout the night they rotate in place as they target different celestial objects.
The image was created by Farid Char, a student at Chile’s Universidad Católica del Norte. If you care to see the VLT depicted in equally artistic fashion, there’s a beautiful time lapse video of the telescope at work here. After this image, it’s the second-coolest thing you’ll see today.
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