Paranal Observatory

Paranal Observatory is an astronomical observatory operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO); it is located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile on Cerro Paranal at 2,635 m (8,645 ft) altitude, 120 km (70 mi) south of Antofagasta. By total light-collecting area, it is the largest optical-infrared observatory in the Southern hemisphere; worldwide, it is second to the Mauna Kea Observatory on Hawaii.

The Very Large Telescope (VLT), the largest telescope on Paranal, is composed of four separate 8.2 m (320 in) telescopes. In addition, the four main telescopes can combine their light to make a fifth instrument, the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). Four auxiliary telescopes of 1.8 m (71 in) each are also part of the VLTI to make it available when the main telescopes are being used for other projects.

The site also houses two survey telescopes with wide fields of view, the 4.0 m (160 in) VISTA and the 2.6 m (100 in) VLT Survey Telescope for surveying large areas of the sky; and two arrays of small telescopes called NGTS and SPECULOOS which are dedicated to searching for exoplanets.

Two major new facilities are under construction nearby: the Southern part of the Cherenkov Telescope Array gamma-ray telescope (not owned by ESO) will be sited in the grounds 10km south-east of Paranal; while ESO's future E-ELT will be on the nearby peak of Cerro Armazones 20km east of Paranal, and will share some of the base facilities.

Paranal Observatory
Cerro Paranal (main-peak) with the VLT and VST
Cerro Paranal is the observatory's main-peak where the VLT (four units) and VST (right) are located
OrganizationEuropean Southern Observatory
Observatory code309
LocationCerro Paranal, Chile
Coordinates24°37′38″S 70°24′15″W / 24.62722°S 70.40417°WCoordinates: 24°37′38″S 70°24′15″W / 24.62722°S 70.40417°W
Altitude2,635 metres (8,645 ft)
Very Large Telescope8.2 m reflector (×4)
VLT Auxiliary Telescope1.8 m reflector (×4)
VISTA Telescope4.0 m reflector
VLT Survey Telescope2.6 m reflector
Next-Generation Transit Survey0.2 m array (×12)
Paranal Observatory is located in Chile
Paranal Observatory
Location of Paranal Observatory


Aerial view

View of the Very Large Telescope
The four VLTs and ATs and the VST on the main peak and VISTA in the background

From an aerial view of the Paranal Observatory, the four large units of the VLT with their four small, dome-shaped auxiliary telescopes can be clearly seen. The Survey Telescope, VST, is immediately adjacent to the VLT and seen in between two of its units, while VISTA is located on a secondary peak, some 1,500 m away in the background (see image).

Very Large Telescope

The Very Large Telescope (VLT) consists of four 8.2-metre telescopes operating in the visible and infrared. These telescopes, along with four smaller auxiliary telescopes, are also combined to operate as an optical interferometer on certain nights of the year. All of the 8.2-metre telescopes have adaptive optics and a full suite of instruments.

VISTA Survey Telescope

VISTA is the Visible & Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, a 4.0-metre telescope with a wide field of view, focusing on infrared surveys of the sky. It was built close to ESO's VLT by a consortium of 18 universities from the United Kingdom, led by Queen Mary University of London. VISTA was handed over to the European Southern Observatory in December 2009.

VLT Survey Telescope (VST)

The VLT Survey Telescope or VST is a 2.6-metre telescope with a wide field imager intended to aid the four Very Large Telescope (VLTs) in their scientific aims.

Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS)

The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) is an exoplanet-survey facility located a few kilometers from the main peak. It consists of an array of twelve 0.2-meter robotic telescopes with a very large field of view of 96 square degrees or several hundred times the area of the full moon. The survey aims to discover numerous super-Earths and Neptune-sized planets around nearby stars, using transit photometry to detect them. NGTS is managed by a partnership of seven academic institutions from Chile, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom and its design is based on the SuperWASP project. Science operations began in early 2015.[1][2]

Other buildings

As well as the telescopes, control buildings and maintenance facilities, Paranal has a Residencia which provides accommodation for staff and visitors. This is located 200 m lower and 3 km from the telescopes. It is built half into the mountain with the concrete coloured to blend into the landscape. It has gym facilities, a swimming pool, a restaurant and two gardens. The construction was decorated by the Chilean architect Paula Gutiérrez Erlandsen, Marchioness of la Pica.[3]


From a Dirt Track to the World's Leading Observatory

Main entrance of the Paranal Observatory.

360-degree Panorama of the Southern Sky edit

A 360-degree panorama of the southern sky above the Paranal platform

Wallpaper of Paranal and the Basecamp

The ESO Residencia (center left) and basecamp at Paranal

Very Large Telescope Array.aerial view

Aerial view

Paranal platform

Paranal platform with the VLTs, the ATs and VST

The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) at Paranal

The NGTS with the VLT and VISTA (background)

Paranal Platform as Night Sets In

The platform as night sets

Laser Towards Milky Ways Centre

Beam of the laser guide star facility at VLT's Yepun Unit

Time-lapse taken at Paranal, showing the Magellanic Clouds

Full tour of the facility in LEGO® form

This collection of video clips shows daily life at the observatory

Popular culture and other uses

To illustrate the isolation of the Paranal Observatory from the lights of civilization, it is located 38 kilometres (24 mi) in straight-line distance north of Paposo, population 259, the nearest community to the observatory.[4]

The VLT hotel, the Residencia, served as a backdrop for part of the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace.

The observatory's facilities were used to stage the Pacific Alliance's fourth summit in June 2012, formally launching the organization.

On 14 March 2013, Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, accompanied by his wife, Princess Mary, visited ESO’s Paranal Observatory, as part of an official visit to Chile. Their tour of Paranal's astronomical facilities was led by ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw.

The visit of the Prince and Princess of Asturias to the observatory
The Crown Prince of Denmark visits the observatory.

See also


  1. ^ "New Exoplanet-hunting Telescopes on Paranal". European Southern Observatory. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  2. ^ "About NGTS". Next Generation Transit Survey. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Proyectos—Hoteles". Paula Gutiérrez Erlandsen. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  4. ^ Google Earth

External links

2004 BX159

2004 BX159, is an asteroid from the central region of the asteroid belt, approximately 1.2 kilometers in diameter. It was first observed at Paranal Observatory in the Atacama desert of Chile on 20 January 2004. 2004 BX159 missed the virtual impactor date of 29 August 2009. The asteroid was removed from the Sentry Risk Table in April 2014 as a result of precovery images establishing it is a harmless main belt asteroid.

2014 OO6

2014 OO6 (also written 2014 OO6) is an Apollo near-Earth asteroid discovered in 2014 and was the most dangerous one discovered in 2014 that remained on the Sentry Risk Table as of early December 2014. The asteroid is estimated to be roughly 75 meters (246 ft) in diameter and had a 1 in 83,000 chance of impacting Earth on 11 January 2051. However, the nominal best-fit orbit shows that 2014 OO6 will be 1.5 AU (220,000,000 km; 140,000,000 mi) from Earth on 11 January 2051.It was discovered on 27 July 2014 by Pan-STARRS at an apparent magnitude of 20 using a 1.8-meter (71 in) Ritchey–Chrétien telescope. On 18 August 2014 the asteroid passed 0.02975 AU (4,451,000 km; 2,765,000 mi) from Earth. By 23 August 2014, the asteroid had dimmed to below magnitude 25. As of early December 2014, the asteroid had an observation arc of 24 days with an uncertainty parameter of 7. 2014 OO6 was recovered by Cerro Paranal Observatory on 23 and 26 December 2014 at magnitude 25 which extended the observation arc from 24 days to 154 days. The orbital refinement removed the impact risk for 11 January 2051.With an absolute magnitude of 23.1, the asteroid is about 60–140 meters in diameter.


2M1207b is a planetary-mass object orbiting the brown dwarf 2M1207, in the constellation Centaurus, approximately 170 light-years from Earth. It is one of the first candidate exoplanets to be directly observed (by infrared imaging). It was discovered in April 2004 by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile by a team from the European Southern Observatory led by Gaël Chauvin. It is believed to be from 3 to 10 times the mass of Jupiter and may orbit 2M1207 at a distance roughly as far from the brown dwarf as Pluto is from the Sun.The object is a very hot gas giant; the estimated surface temperature is roughly 1600 K (1300 °C or 2400 °F), mostly due to gravitational contraction. Its mass is well below the calculated limit for deuterium fusion in brown dwarfs, which is 13 Jupiter masses. The projected distance between 2M1207b and its primary is around 40 AU (similar to the mean distance between Pluto and the Sun). Its infrared spectrum indicates the presence of water molecules in its atmosphere. The object is not a likely candidate to support life, either on its surface or on any satellites.

Cerro Paranal

Cerro Paranal is a mountain in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile and is the home of the Paranal Observatory. Prior to the construction of the observatory, the summit was a horizontal control point with an elevation of 2,664 m (8,740 ft), now it is 2,635 m (8,645 ft) above sea level. It is the site of the Very Large Telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope. It is located 120 km (75 mi) south of Antofagasta and 80 km (50 mi) north of Taltal, as well as 15 km (9.3 mi) inland and 5 km (3.1 mi) west of highway B-710.

Cerro Paranal Airport

Cerro Paranal Airport (ICAO: SCPA) is a desert airport 6 kilometres (4 mi) east-southeast of Cerro Paranal, Antofagasta, Chile. It serves the Paranal Observatory and Cerro Armazones Observatory scientific complexes.

There is rising terrain west of the airport.

Chandra Deep Field South

The Chandra Deep Field South (CDF-S) is an image taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory satellite. The location was chosen because, like the Lockman Hole, it is a relatively clear "window" through the ubiquitous clouds of neutral hydrogen gas in our Milky Way galaxy, which allows us to clearly see the rest of the universe in X-rays. The image is centered on RA 3h 32m 28.0s DEC −27° 48′ 30″ (J2000.0), covering 0.11 square degrees, measuring 16 arcminutes across. This patch of sky lies in the Fornax constellation.The image was created by compositing 11 individual ACIS-I exposures for a cumulative exposure time of over one million seconds, in the period 1999-2000, by a team led by Riccardo Giacconi. This region was selected for observation because it has much less galactic gas and dust to obscure distant sources. Further observations taken between 2000 and 2010 have resulted in a total of exposure of over four million seconds. An additional four million seconds of exposure are scheduled to be undertaken by the end of 2015, resulting in an integrated exposure time of eight million seconds. The Chandra Deep Field South is the single target where Chandra has observed the longest.

Multispectral observations of the region were carried out in collaboration with the Very Large Telescope and the Paranal Observatory. Through the course of these investigations, the X-ray background was determined to have originated from the central supermassive black holes of distant galaxies, and a better characterization of Type-II Quasars was obtained. The CDFS discovered over 300 X-ray sources, many of them from "low luminosity" AGN lying about 9 billion light years away. The study also discovered the then most distant Quasar 2, lying at redshift z=3.7, some 12 billion light years away.In 2014 and 2015 astronomers detected four very intense burst of X-rays, currently unexplained, from a small galaxy, known as CDF-S XT1, about 11 billion light years from Earth in the Fornax constellation.

ESO Hotel

ESO Hotel at Cerro Paranal (or Residencia) is the accommodation for Paranal Observatory in Chile since 2002. It is mainly used for the ESO (European Southern Observatory) scientists and engineers who work there on a roster system. It has been called a "boarding house on Mars", because the desert surroundings are Mars-like, and an "Oasis for astronomers". It is not a commercial hotel, and the public cannot book rooms.The total area is 10 000 m², with an L-shape of 176 m x 53 m. It has 4 levels, 1,000 m² of gardens, 108 rooms, and 18 offices. It includes a restaurant, music room, library, swimming pool, and sauna. Its inauguration was in February 2002.The hotel is located at 2,400 meters (7,900 ft) above sea level on Cerro Paranal. The people there work in extreme climatic conditions including intense sunlight, dryness, high wind speeds and great fluctuations in temperature. To protect against these an artificial oasis was built to allow respite between shifts.

The hotel complex, comprising four levels, fits into an existing depression in the ground. There are views across the desert to the Pacific Ocean from each of the 120 rooms and also from the dining room veranda. Also visible is a slightly raised dome comprising a steel skeleton that measures 35 meters (115 ft) in diameter.

The hotel's exterior was featured in the 2008 Bond film Quantum of Solace, in which the structure was depicted as a fictional eco-hotel in Bolivia. A miniature of the hotel was built by the visual effects team for the shots where the hotel is destroyed.

The architect was Auer+Weber of Germany and the constructor was Vial y Vives Ltda. of Chile. It won the Cityscape Architectural Review Awards in 2005. In 2004 it won the new and overall Leaf-Awards.

GQ Lupi b

GQ Lupi b is a possible extrasolar planet or brown dwarf orbiting the star GQ Lupi. Its discovery was announced in April 2005. Along with 2M1207b, this was one of the first extrasolar planet candidates to be directly imaged. The image was made with the VLT telescope at Paranal Observatory, Chile on June 25, 2004.

GQ Lupi b has a spectral type between M6 and L0, corresponding to a temperature between 2,050 and 2,650 kelvins. Located at a projected distance of about 100 AU from its companion star, giving it an orbital period of perhaps about 1,200 years, it is believed to be several times more massive than Jupiter. Because the theoretical models which are used to predict planetary masses for objects in young star systems like GQ Lupi b are still tentative, the mass cannot be precisely specified — models place GQ Lupi b's mass anywhere between a few Jupiter masses and 36 Jupiter masses. At the highest end of this range, GQ Lupi b could be classified as a small brown dwarf, but at the lowest end of this range, it could rather be classified as an extremely large Jupiter-like exoplanet than a brown dwarf.

If classified as an exoplanet, with a maximum radius of 6.5 times that of Jupiter (RJ) (or 930,000 km in diameter), this would make GQ Lupi b one of largest exoplanets discovered, although the size of the planet is shrinking as it evolves.

As of 2006, the International Astronomical Union Working Group on Extrasolar Planets described GQ Lupi b as a "possible planetary-mass companion to a young star."

Geneva Extrasolar Planet Search

The Geneva Extrasolar Planet Search is a variety of observational programs run by the Geneva Observatory located at Versoix, a small town near Geneva, Switzerland. The programs are executed by M. Mayor, D. Naef, F. Pepe, D. Queloz, N.C. Santos, and S. Udry using several telescopes and instruments in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere and have resulted in the discovery of numerous extrasolar planets, including 51 Pegasi b, the first ever confirmed exoplanet orbiting a main-sequence star.

Programs originated at Geneva are generally conducted in collaboration with several other academic institutions from Belgium, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. These programs search for exoplanets in various locations using different instruments. These include the Haute-Provence Observatory in France, the TRAPPIST and the Euler Telescope, both located at La Silla Observatory in Chile, as well as the M dwarf programs. Most recent projects involve the HARPS spectrograph, HARPS-N at the island of La Palma, and the Next-Generation Transit Survey located at the Paranal Observatory, northern Chile.The Integral Science Data Centre is located at Ecogia, which also belongs to the town of Versoix. The centre is linked to the Geneva Observatory and deals with the processing of the data provided by the satellite INTEGRAL of the European Space Agency. On the two sites of Sauverny and Ecogia, a group of approximately 143 people are employed, including scientists, PhD candidates, students, technical staff (computer and electronics specialists, mechanics), as well as administrative staff.

Geneva Observatory

The Geneva Observatory (French: Observatoire de Genève, German: Observatorium von Genf) is an astronomical observatory at Sauverny (CH) in the municipality of Versoix, Canton of Geneva, in Switzerland. It shares its buildings with the astronomy department of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. It has been active in discovering exoplanets, in stellar photometry, modelling stellar evolution, and has been involved in the European Space Agency's Hipparcos, INTEGRAL, Gaia, and Planck missions.

In 1995, the first exoplanet of a main-sequence star, 51 Pegasi b, had been discovered by two scientist of the observatory, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, using the radial velocity method with the 1.9-metre telescope at Haute-Provence Observatory in France.Besides a 1-metre telescope at the French Haute-Provence Observatory, the Geneva Observatory also operates the 1.2-metre Leonhard Euler Telescope. In cooperation with the Belgian University of Liège, it supports TRAPPIST, a 0.6-metre telescope specialized in observing comets and exoplanets. Both telescopes are located at ESO's La Silla Observatory in northern Chile. In 2010, TRAPPIST was also involved in the controversial size-comparison of the two dwarf planets Eris and Pluto. The Geneva Observatory also participates in the Next-Generation Transit Survey, an international collaboration with several Universities from the United Kingdom as well as from Chile and Germany. Located at Paranal Observatory in Chile, the ground-based, robotic search facility for exoplanets began science operations in early 2015.

Hans-Emil Schuster

Hans-Emil Schuster (born September 19, 1934 in Hamburg) is a German astronomer and a discoverer of minor planets and comets, who retired in October 1991. He worked at Hamburg Observatory at Bergedorf and European Southern Observatory (ESO), and was former acting director of La Silla Observatory. Since 1982, he was married to Rosemarie Schuster née von Holt (March 28, 1935 – September 18, 2006)

He discovered periodic comet 106P/Schuster. He also discovered the comet C/1976 D2 (in the contemporary nomenclature, it was known as Comet 1975 II or 1976c), which was notable for its large perihelion distance of 6.88 AU [1] [2], the largest yet observed at the time.

He discovered 25 asteroids, including notably the Apollo asteroid 2329 Orthos and the Amor asteroids 2608 Seneca, 3271 Ul, 3288 Seleucus, and 3908 Nyx. He discovered the near-Earth asteroid 161989 Cacus, which was lost and not recovered until 2003.

Schuster participated in the exploration, selection and testing of the sites of two ESO observatories: La Silla Observatory and Paranal Observatory (the latter is the VLT site).

He also participated in two ESO Southern Sky Surveys: the ESO-B survey ("Quick-Blue Survey") completed in 1978 was the first deep optical survey of the southern sky; and the "Red Sky Survey". Photographic plates were taken with the ESO's 1-meter Schmidt Telescope at La Silla.

He co-discovered the Phoenix Dwarf galaxy (with Richard M. West), and in 1976 also discovered the Eridanus Globular Cluster, one of the most distant globular clusters in the galactic halo. In 1980, he discovered a type-II supernova in the galaxy NGC 1255. However, "Schuster's Spiral" (Horologium Dwarf) is not named after him, but a different Schuster.

K-band multi-object spectrograph

The K-band multi-object spectrograph, or KMOS for short, is an instrument mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope Antu (UT1) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. KMOS is able to observe 24 objects at the same time in infrared light and to map out how their properties vary from place to place. It will provide crucial data to help understand how galaxies grew and evolved in the early Universe.

List of largest optical reflecting telescopes

This list of the largest optical reflecting telescopes with objective diameters of 3.0 metres (120 in) or greater is sorted by aperture, which is one limit on the light-gathering power and resolution of a reflecting telescope's optical assembly. The mirrors themselves can be larger than the aperture, and telescopes may use aperture synthesis achieved by interferometry. Telescopes designed to be used as optical astronomical interferometers such as the Keck I and II used together as the Keck Interferometer (up to 85 m) can reach very high resolutions, although at a narrower range of observations. When the two mirrors are on one mount, the combined mirror spacing of the Large Binocular Telescope (22.8 m) allows fuller use of the aperture synthesis.

Largest does not always equate to being the best telescopes, and overall light gathering power of the optical system can be a poor measure of a telescope's performance. Space-based telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, take advantage of being above the Earth's atmosphere to reach higher resolution and greater light gathering through longer exposure time. Location in the northern or southern hemisphere of the Earth can also limit what part of the sky can be observed.

Next-Generation Transit Survey

The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) is a ground-based robotic search for exoplanets. The facility is located at Paranal Observatory in the Atacama desert in northern Chile, about 2 km from ESO's Very Large Telescope and 0.5 km from the VISTA Survey Telescope. Science operations began in early 2015. The astronomical survey is managed by a consortium of seven European universities and other academic institutions from Chile, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Prototypes of the array were tested in 2009 and 2010 on La Palma, and from 2012 to 2014 at Geneva Observatory.The aim of NGTS is to discover super-Earths and exo-Neptunes transiting relatively bright and nearby stars with an apparent magnitude of up to 13. The survey uses transit photometry, which precisely measures the dimming of a star to detect the presence of a planet when it crosses in front of it. NGTS consists of an array of twelve commercial 0.2-metre telescopes (f/2.8), each equipped with a red-sensitive CCD camera operating in the visible and near-infrared at 600–900 nm. The array covers an instantaneous field of view of 96 square degrees (8 deg2 per telescope) or around 0.23% of the entire sky. NGTS builds heavily on experience with SuperWASP, using more sensitive detectors, refined software, and larger optics, though having a much smaller field of view. Compared to the Kepler spacecraft with its original Kepler field of 115 square degrees, the sky area covered by NGTS will be sixteen times larger, because the survey intends to scan four different fields every year over a period of four years. As a result, the sky coverage will be comparable to that of Kepler's K2 phase.NGTS is designed to fill the current gap between Earth-sized planets and gas giants. Although other ground-based surveys could only detect larger, Jupiter-sized exoplanets, Kepler's Earth-sized planets are often too far away or orbit stars too dim to allow for doppler spectroscopy—a different detection method to determine the planet's mass by the wobble of its host star. NGTS's wider field of view enables it to detect a larger number of more-massive planets around brighter stars. With a detailed follow-up characterization by larger instruments such as HARPS, ESPRESSO and VLT-SPHERE, it will be possible to measure the mass of a large number of targets using this wobble method. This makes it possible to determine the exoplanet's density, and hence whether it is gaseous or rocky.On 31 October 2017, the discovery of NGTS-1b, a confirmed hot Jupiter-sized extrasolar planet orbiting NGTS-1, an M-dwarf star, about half the mass and radius of the Sun, every 2.65 days, was reported by the survey team. Daniel Bayliss, of the University of Warwick, and lead author of the study describing the discovery of NGTS-1b, stated, "The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us—such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars – importantly, our challenge now is to find out how common these types of planets are in the Galaxy, and with the new Next-Generation Transit Survey facility we are well-placed to do just that."


The Precision Integrated-Optics Near-infrared Imaging ExpeRiment (PIONIER) is a visiting instrument at the ESO's Paranal Observatory, part of the VLTI astronomical observatory. It combines the light from four telescopes simultaneously and provide 0.001 arc seconds of angular resolution, the equivalent [[angular

resolution]] of a 100 m telescope.

PIONIER has been built at LAOG and has been installed at VLTI in November 2010.

After few nights of commissioning, it is now routinely delivering science data.


SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) is a project in development that will consist of four Ritchey-Chretien design telescopes of 1-metre primary aperture, made by ASTELCO. Each telescope will be equipped with a NTM-1000 robotic mount, that will be installed at the Paranal Observatory in Chile to search for Earth-sized exoplanets around 1000 ultra-cool stars and brown dwarfs.The system comprises four telescopes called Europa, Io, Callisto, and Ganymede. The first telescope (Europa) saw its first light in April 2017. The second telescope (Io) began operations in October 2017. The robotic observations of each of the four telescopes will be controlled by the program ACP Expert. There is a sister project in the northern hemisphere.


Taltal is a Chilean commune and city in Antofagasta Province, Antofagasta Region. According to the 2012 census, the commune has a population of 11,132 and has an area of 20,405.1 km2 (7,878 sq mi).

The commune is home to Paranal Observatory and includes the northern portion of Pan de Azúcar National Park.

VIMOS-VLT Deep Survey

The VIMOS-VLT Deep Survey (VVDS) is a redshift survey carried out by a collaboration between French and Italian astronomical institutes using the VIMOS spectrograph, mounted on the telescope Melipal (UT3) of the Very Large Telescope, located at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

VISTA (telescope)

The VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) is a wide-field reflecting telescope with a 4.1 metre mirror, located at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. It is operated by the European Southern Observatory and started science operations in December 2009. VISTA was conceived and developed by a consortium of universities in the United Kingdom led by Queen Mary University of London and became an in-kind contribution to ESO as part of the UK's accession agreement, with the subscription paid by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).VISTA is a survey telescope working at infrared wavelengths, and is by far the largest telescope in the world dedicated to surveying the sky at near-infrared wavelengths. The telescope has only one instrument: VIRCAM, the Vista InfraRed CAMera. This is a 3-tonne camera containing 16 special detectors sensitive to infrared light, with a combined total of 67 million pixels.A second-generation instrument called 4MOST, a 2400-object fibre-fed multi-object spectrograph, is under development for installation around 2020.

Observing at wavelengths longer than those visible to the human eye allows VISTA to study objects that may be almost impossible to see in visible light because they are cool, obscured by dust clouds or because their light has been stretched towards redder wavelengths by the expansion of space during the light’s long journey from the early Universe.

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