Paranal Observatory

The Paranal Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the commune of Taltal, the Second Region of Antofagasta, Chile. This astronomical center is founded on the Cerro Paranal 2635.43 meters above sea level, in the Cordillera de la Costa, 130 kms. south of Antofagasta and 12 kms. from the coast. Symbolically inaugurated in 1996, by the then President of the Republic of Chile, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. The VLT project of Cerro Paranal has an investment of about U.S.$200,000,000.

Like La Silla Observatory, this is operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and in May 1998, the ESO showed the first images taken at the center. It includes the Very Large Telescope (VLT), which has four telescopes of 8.2 mts. These four main telescopes can combine their light to use a fifth instrument, the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). These telescopes are called: Antu, Kueyen, and Melipal Yepun meaning Sun, Moon, Southern Cross and Venus(or evening star),respectively. The names come from the Mapuche language. It also has four Auxiliary Telescopes (AT) of 1.8 mts. that can be added to the VLTI in case the main telescopes are being used in other projects. It also has the VLT Survey Telescope of 2.5 mts and the VISTA Telescope Survey of 4 mts, with wide vision fields to examine uniformly extense areas of the sky.

The Very Large Telescope Project (VLT) is a system of four separate optical telescopes, surrounded by several smaller instruments. Each of the four main instruments is a reflector telescope with a mirror of 8.2 meters. The VLT project is part of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the largest astronomical organization in Europe.

These four large telescopes and interferometer (VLTI) are used for observations with higher resolution. The telescopes have been named after some astronomical objects in Mapudungun: Antu (the Sun), Kueyen (the Moon), Melipal (the Southern Cross) and Yepun (Venus).

The VLT can operate in three ways:

• as four independent telescopes
• as a single inconsistent instrument, which captures four times the light of one of the individual telescopes
• as a single coherent interferometric mode for a high resolution.


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