The Unbearable Beauty of the Night Sky

Uploaded by SpaceRip on 22.07.2010

jbjb The Sun sets behind Cerro Paranal in the Chilean Atacama desert. While astronomers
get ready to observe with ESO s Very Large Telescope, Nature prepares for her own grand
display. As night falls over the desert, the southern sky reveals its nocturnal beauty,
leaving the spectator in silent amazement. Some people, however, don t just stare at
the spectacle. With great skill, they record these unique moments for everyone to see they
are the photographers of the night. Anyone who has been up at night in a remote, high
place such as at one of ESO s observatories in Chile may have been lucky enough to experience
the splendid view of the myriad of stars shining brightly from the heavens. It is a both a
dream and a challenge for a photographer to capture an image of this incredible view.
Yuri Beletsky is an ESO Fellow and astronomer at the Paranal Observatory. When not observing
with the world s most advanced telescope, the VLT, he actively lives out his passion
for taking pictures of the southern sky.
Over time, Yuri has produced many spectacular images of Paranal against the wonderful backdrop
of the night sky. A laser beam shooting out of one of the VLT s Unit Telescopes. The bright
constellation of the Southern Cross.
The Pipe Nebula with its picturesque dust lane crossing the Milky Way. Sunlight reflected by small particles of dust
lying in between the planets causes the faint zodiacal light. Paranal is an ideal site for
astrophotographers as it offers crystal-clear, extremely dark skies with perfect weather
conditions on about 320 nights per year. Gerhard H depohl, an electronic engineer at Paranal,
knows about the photographic benefits of the VLT s site. My favourite type of photography
is landscape photography and in particular images of the landscape at night, showing
the Milky Way in the night sky here in the Atacama desert. And here at Paranal I can
have the telescopes as a nice foreground and the stars and the night sky as a background
The bright plane of our Milky Way as it arches above the VLT. An image like this can only
be obtained under top-notch stargazing conditions, such as those offered at Paranal. Astrophotography
is very demanding. The photographer has to stay out in the dark and in the chill of the
night for many hours. Sometimes it can take several nights of painstaking work in these
tough conditions to obtain just one image and the equipment must always function flawlessly.
phane Guisard is the head of the optical group at Paranal. His astrophotography benefits
from his professional expertise as an optical engineer specialising in telescopes. I take
pictures of galaxies and nebulae with a telescope, but I also like to take wide-field images
of the sky with a terrestrial foreground. I like to share the beauty of the sky and
the Universe. This photographic mosaic of the central parts of our galactic home is
just one example of St phane s work. Taken with an amateur telescope coupled to a CCD
camera, the image combines about 1200 photos for a total exposure time of around 250 hours.
phane has also produced a spectacular series of timelapse sequences at the Paranal site.
Producing such sequences is quite a challenge as the images must be taken at regular intervals,
and all the parameters must match perfectly to obtain the sensation of the moving firmament.
There is no doubt that Yuri, Gerhard and St phane will continue to produce stunning images
of the starry skies above Paranal. The wonderful quality of the images is a testament to the
splendour of the night sky at ESO s Paranal Observatory. By sharing their work, these
three astrophotographers have brought their magnificent view of the southern sky to a
wider audience. This is Dr J signing off for the ESOcast. Join me again next time for another
cosmic adventure. The Sun sets behind Cerro Paranal in the Chilean Atacama desert Thomas
Lucas Normal Thomas Lucas Microsoft Word 10.1 ]Qp* The Sun sets behind Cerro Paranal in
the Chilean Atacama desert Title Microsoft Word Document NB6W Word.Document.8