The skies above the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory resemble oil on water, as greens, yellows, and blues blend to create an iridescent skyscape.
The rocky, barren landscape below evokes an image of an alien world, perfectly complementing the shimmering cosmic display occurring above. The main feature is our beautiful home galaxy, the Milky Way, arching across the Chilean night sky and framing the awestruck observer on the left. The light from billions of stars combines to create the Milky Way’s glow, with huge clouds of dark dust blocking the light here and there and creating the dark and mottled pattern we observe. A natural effect known as airglow is responsible for the swathes of green and orange light that appear to be emanating from the horizon.
ESO’s Very Large Telescope can be seen as a speck in the distant background to the right atop Cerro Paranal. Its neighbour, slightly lower down, is the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA).