VISTA: Celebrating First Light of ESO’s Newest Observatory

The European Space Agency and Great Britain

proudly announce the “First Light” of the world’s

newest observatory: VISTA

ESO's VISTA "First Light" Photo: The Flame Nebula in Orion (NGC 2024)

A new telescope — VISTA (the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) — has just started work at ESO’s Paranal Observatory and has made its first release of pictures. VISTA is a survey telescope working at infrared wavelengths and is the world’s largest telescope dedicated to mapping the sky. Its large mirror, wide field of view and very sensitive detectors will reveal a completely new view of the southern sky. Spectacular new images of the Flame Nebula, the centre of our Milky Way galaxy and the Fornax Galaxy Cluster show that it is working extremely well.

VISTA, located in Paranal, Chile, at an elevation of 2635 meters (8645 ft) has a 4.1 meter single mirror (unlike the Twin Kecks in Hawaii that have 36 small hexagonal mirrors to create 10 meter reflectors).  According to the VISTA website, “In photographic terms it can be thought of as a 67 megapixel digital camera with a 13 000 mm f/3.25 mirror lens.”

Congratulations to the ESO and U.K. Consortium!  VISTA: Welcome to the Universe!