“damn, what a sky…”

[Image credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky] Clear skies are everything in visible-light astronomy, and they don’t come much clearer that the skies above the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope [VLT] array on top of Cerro Paranal in Chile’s Atacama Desert.  As this amazing time-lapse video of the VLT in operation, by Stephane Guisard and Jose Francisco Salgado, shows.  There’s little I can say to prepare you for these wondrous images.  Simply stunning.  Via the Professor.  And via Popsci’s Clay Dillow, who warns “it might make you cry.”  [Video credit: ESO/S. Guisard (www.eso.org/~sguisard) ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)]

As an aside, the yellow laser beam seen during the video is part of an adaptive optics system. It allows for measurement of the amount of atmospheric distortion being experienced during any particular observation – which can then be compensated for.