The star-forming region of Messier 17 - 268 mega-pixel camera. Image Credit: ESO/INAF-VST/OmegaCAM
A new state-of-the-art telescope has snapped its first impressive images of the southern sky over the Paranal Observatory in Chile.
The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) is the latest addition to the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) network of telescopes in northern Chile. The first image released shows the spectacular star-forming region Messier 17, also known as the Omega or Swan nebula, as it has never been seen before – 5,500 light years from Earth in the heart of the Milky Way.
The 2.6-metre aperture telescope, one of the world’s largest, uses adaptive optics to ensure the instrument’s mirrors are always in the perfect position to view the skies. Behind the telescope’s lenses, images are captured by OmegaCAM, a 268-megapixel digital camera that weighs in at 770kg.
The VST will conduct 3 surveys over the next 5 years and is sure to produce images that will further our knowledge on dark matter, the invisible substance that clings to galaxies; dark energy, which is thought to drive the expansion of the universe; and the evolution of galaxies.
Tim de Zeeuw, ESO director general, said: ‘I am very pleased to see the impressive first images from the VST and OmegaCAM. The unique combination of the VST and the Vista infrared survey telescope will allow many interesting objects to be identified for more detailed follow-up observations with the powerful telescopes of the VLT.’