The movements of the heavens above are sometimes hard to notice. This photo, however, shows clearly the stars rotating around the Earth’s rotational axis. The telescope in the foreground is the Yepun telescope (UT4) in the Very Large Telescope (VLT) complex at Paranal Observatory, Chile. The picture was taken by Farid Char, an astrophotographer from Chile. I asked him a few questions about his magnificent picture:
- How long does it take to create the picture?
- The photo is an artistic composition. I took several captures, then stacked them, but I superimposed a single frame to see the telescope quiet, otherwise it would appear distorted because of its continuous movement during the night. The basics of the picture are shown on its web section, but I can tell you is a composition of 867 single captures over a tripod (15” each), and the overall exposition was 4 hours 12 mins (from 23:50 h to 04:02 h local time).
- What does it mean to you personally?
- I like to capture star trails, and for this picture I wanted to show the most ‘native’ feature of the southern hemisphere (the south celestial pole) where is located Paranal observatory, illuminated by moonlight. I think is a simple way to represent our relaxing but changing skies.
- Are you involved with the work at the Paranal Observatory?
- Yes, I have been working at Paranal for almost 4 years, as a member of the E-ELT site testing team, operating a Lunar Scintillometer to measure atmospheric turbulence; first analyzing some of the Chilean candidate sites, and currently monitoring the chosen site for this project (Cerro Armazones). Additionally I work as tourist visitor guide of the observatory.
- Yepun is actually the Mapuche word for Venus.
- The Yepun telescope is one of four in the VLT complex. The others are Antu, Melipal and Kueyen which mean Sun, Southern Cross and Moon respectively
- Each telescope has an 8.2m wide mirror and looks at the sky in the visible and infra red spectra.
- Using a system known as adaptive optics – which correct for distortions caused by movements in the atmosphere – the telescopes have a resolution strong enough to distinguish details smaller than the size of a DVD on the International Space Station – 400 km away.