CHILE - STARS ABOVE THE DESERT
EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY "ESO" - PARANAL, CHAJNANTOR AND LA SILLA
The universe is there and people are fascinated always by the stars. In ancient times, the bright signs in the night sky were ancient gods, in followed by generations guides and companions. Astronomy has changed a lot since the invention of the telescope by Galileo Galilei. The stars in the night sky are partially ignored by humans out of the hustle and bustle on the planet at night. Astronomy has been rescued since Galileo hundreds of thousands of the secrets of the night skies.
Especially since the Industrial Revolution, the optics of telescopes continued in development in new areas of science, and there are added continuously new technologies, which showed in addition to the visual perception the night sky in other lights.
One of the most important discoveries was that of Karl Guthe Jansky who stated in 1932, after months of investigations, that Milky Way is sending out radio emissions. In this time there was born the radio astronomy and locates the centre of the Milky Way in the constellation Sagittarius. Visually, this area at that point would not have been visible; you had to be in the following year's used other tools.
To the greatest achievements of astronomy technique on planet earth belonging the facilities of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), located in South American Chile. There are three main sites: Paranal, La Silla and Chajnantor. Hobby astronomers and professionals let rise the heart beat up by clearly hear this words!
The ESO sites in Chile have shared nearby the Atacama Desert, maybe the driest desert in the world. Oldest site here is 'La Silla', a mountain of 2,400 meters height, located 600 km north of Santiago de Chile. There are stationed several optical mirror telescopes with to commodate the size up to 3.6 meters. One of these is the 'New Technology Telescope', the 3,5-meter mirror of the world's first mirror telescope housed with active optics. The mirror shape is at this moment corrected and controlled by a computer. At the 3,6-meter telescope at La Silla currently is being used and mounted 'HARPS' (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher), one of the most successful exoplanets hunting systems.
The flagship of ESO in Chile is definitely the Very Large Telescope (VLT). Still on the 2,600 m high mountain Paranal. 130 kilometres south of the Chilean city of Antofagasta, but no less than 12 kilometres from the Pacific coast in the distance. There is the composite of the VLT, whose scientific breakthrough success story began in 1999.
The 'Very Large Telescope' incorporates the latest technology, which provides unsurpassed sharp images of the universe. Four main telescopes, each 8.2 meters in diameter, set up night after night, especially their sharp eyes toward the night sky. One of the most exciting instruments is the use of a large optical interferometer (VLT Interferometer or VLTI). The light from the primary or auxiliary telescopes will be combined to the network of the large telescopes so that the sky is so excellent detailed as to use a single telescope with a 200 m diameter.
One of the most extraordinary projects of ESO in Chile is "ALMA"(Atacama Large Millimeter Array). It represents the largest ground-based astronomical project in existence. 66 antennas with 12 and 7 meters in diameter, operating at millimeter-submillimetre wavelengths. The construction of ALMA started in 2003. ALMA is located at 5,000 meters on the plateau of Chajnantor, a world-class observing site.
In 2011 the construction of the next major project had begun, the 'European Extremely Large Telescope' the E-ELT). Here, a primary mirror of no less than 40 meters in diameter will be used and thus reflects the E-ELT again the largest telescope in the world. The application will be used in visible and infrared lights. The E-ELT will address many unresolved questions, and will turn the understanding of the nowadays universe 'upside down', as such Galileo Galilei's telescope was done that over 400 years ago!
Space Affairs with its partners can provide you a trip to Chile to this gigantic telescopes. Through international partnerships, we are in the position that you can see the night sky as never you seen it before on the screens in the control rooms. Chile, as a destination of your trip, remains a highly unique journey, which couples the secrets of astronomy with the secrets of this country!
Just the Atacama Desert, which is still the driest desert in the world, is a worthwhile goal, and if you have slept a few days in astronomers hotel on Paranal, you know why you have travelled to this remote place on planet earth!
Space Affairs and partners will provide several options for your eyes, to have a look through high-precision devices toward heaven. The trips to Chile are very customizable. Travel dates are chosen so that you are staying at La Silla and on Paranal to new moon around because a full moon would overburden the optical instruments at ESO telescope's places and you would not see much the stars above the desert.
We look forward to hearing from you! The night sky could be yours!
Pictures (c) by ESO