During removal of a decommissioned instrument, astronomers at the European Southern Observatory took a moment to enjoy an unparalleled view of the moon as magnified by the Unit 3 telescope’s 8.2-metre (26.9-foot) primary mirror and projected onto a semi-transparent screen. ESO reports the stunning view was enjoyed by numerous astronomers and staff, including adaptive optics engineer Stefan Ströbele, seen below.
The decommissioned instrument, the Visible Multi-Object Spectrograph, or VIMOS, served for 16 years studying thousands of galaxies observed when the Universe was just a third of its current age. It is being replaced by the upcoming CRyogenic InfraRed Echelle Spectrograph, of CRIRES+, a much more sensitive instrument that will be used to look for super-Earths in the habitable zones of low-mass stars, to characterise the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets and to study the origin and evolution of stellar magnetic fields.
Such ultra-sensitive instruments would be blinded by the magnified light of the moon, but the human eye can take in the stupendous view at a glance, giving amateur astronomers a serious case of aperture envy.