From a mountaintop in northern Chile, the largest visible-light telescope in the world has captured stunning images of the cosmos in never-before-seen detail.
The Paranal Observatory released initial images Wednesday from the powerful VLT Survey Telescope.
The images constitute a celestial breakthrough for the 15-nation European Southern Observatory, which runs the Paranal Observatory and has worked with astronomers to build telescopes that survey the sky in large segments.
“The VST project has overcome many difficulties but it is now repaying, with its excellent image quality, the expectations of the astronomical community and the efforts of the many people at INAF (Italian National Institute for Astrophysics) involved in its construction," Tommaso Maccacaro, head of the INAF, said in an ESO press release. "I am very pleased to see the VST in operation,” he said.
The VST image of the star-forming cluster Messier 17, so awesome it has at least three other descriptive names – Omega Nebula, Swan Nebula and Horseshoe Nebula – shows swaddling bands of light in astonishing clarity.
The ESO images are the fruits of the new VLT Survey Telescope and the "monster camera," OmegaCAM, which produces 268-megapixel images.
The new telescope sits among four other high-powered instruments on the summit of Cerro Paranal in Chile's Atacama Desert, an optimum location far enough from city lights to view celestial wonders.
Also released by the ESO was an image of the stellar cluster Omega Centauri, showing about 300,000 stars, according to the release.
The VST will make three public surveys over the next five years, the release said.