Wired Science has posted a photo gallery of the new VLT Survey Telescope (VST) in Chile, including VST’s first breathtaking photos of the Southern sky.
The VST is a celestial scout of sorts — its purpose is to take vivid photos of celestial objects and identify suitable candidates for more detailed study by the VLT (Very Large Telescope). The VLT is an array of four large telescopes — each 8.2-m in diameter — with a combined resolution of 1 milli-arcsecond. In practical terms, this means the VLT would be able to distinguish two astronauts standing five feet apart on the surface of the Moon. Since time on the VLT is very precious, the VST — with its impressive 268-megapixel wide-field imaging camera — will be invaluable in selecting optimum targets for it.
It never fails to amaze me just how dense with stars the night sky is. Oh, I know there are vast tracks of near nothing in between, nonetheless, images pulled from Hubble’s deep space sky show galaxies upon galaxies spiraling off into the ends of the universe.
Whitman’s “Astronomer” comes to mind:
WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
Even we professionals sometimes just need to look upward.