A Visit to the European Southern Observatory

High in northern Chile’s Atacama Desert, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has built several collections of telescopes and observatories on remote, arid mountaintops. The locations are ideal for ground-based astronomy -- far from city lights, high above sea level, with more than 350 cloudless days a year. The ESO is an intergovernmental research organization with 15 member states, founded in 1962. It has been making observations from the southern hemisphere since 1966, and continues to expand its facilities to this day. The sites are La Silla, which hosts the New Technology Telescope (NTT); Paranal, home to the Very Large Telescope (VLT); and Llano de Chajnantor, which hosts the APEX submillimeter telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Construction on the newest project in Chile's desert—the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), a 40-meter-class telescope—began in 2014. The E-ELT is scheduled to come online in  2024. Here are some recent images of the ESO's observatories, the surrounding landscape, and a few of the astronomical images they've taken.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Betsy Asher Hall / Gervasio Robles / NASA

    Photos of the Week: 5/20–5/26

    An elephant rescue in India, President Trump travels overseas, a terror attack in Manchester, England, the removal of a Confederate statue in New Orleans, and much more.

  • Andrea Spinelli / Corbis via Getty

    A World Without People

    For a number of reasons, natural and human, people have abandoned many places around the world.

  • Dan Mullan / Getty

    Baku 2017: The Islamic Solidarity Games

    For the past 10 days in Baku, Azerbaijan, 6,000 athletes from 54 nations competed in 21 sports during the fourth iteration of the Islamic Solidarity Games.

  • Lucas Jackson / Reuters

    The Finale of 'The Greatest Show on Earth'

    After a run of 146 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, known as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” has come to an end.

Join the Discussion