Mars far and near (photo)

This photo captures a quiet night over the Cerro Paranal Mountain in the Chilean Atacama Desert, which is home to the Paranal Observatory. The most noticeable detail of the picture is a bright reddish spot in the sky to the left of the center of the frame. This is Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun.

Night over the Paranal Observatory. Source: Farid Char/ESO

Against the background of the starry sky, on the right, on the top of the mountain, the silhouette of the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) can be seen. The four larger towers are 8.2-meter “units” (main telescopes), and the smaller tower is slightly to the right — the VLT Survey Telescope. To date, VLT is the largest ground-based optical telescope in the world in terms of the total area of mirrors.

From a certain point of view, we can say that two Martians can be seen in the photo at once. The fact is that the Atacama Desert, famous for its almost complete absence of precipitation, is one of the most unfavorable places on our planet, and its lifeless landscapes are very often compared with Martian ones. It is not surprising that the European Space Agency has sent prototypes of its rovers here several times to test them in conditions close to those on the surface of the fourth planet from the Sun.

Earlier, we published a satellite image of the construction site of the ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope, a giant observatory that will far surpass VLT in its characteristics. 

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