Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2004 September 23
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La Silla's Starry Night
Credit: Nico Housen, European Southern Observatory

Explanation: On clear, moonless nights, the stars still come out with a vengance above the high-altitude La Silla astronomical observatory. Taking advantage of a recent visit to this first European Southern Observatory (ESO) site constructed on a mountain top in Chile, ESO software engineer Nico Housen recorded this stunning sky view. Difficult to see from light polluted areas, faint stars and dark dust clouds along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy arc across the gorgeous photo. In the foreground lies the highly polished 15-meter diameter dish antenna of the Swedish-ESO Submillimeter Telescope (now decommissioned). Beyond it, silhouetted by starlight, is the dome of one of La Silla's large optical instruments, a 3.6 meter telescope. Dramatically reflected in the focusing, mirror-like surface of the dish, the vista behind the photographer appears inverted, with the dark horizon hanging above the Milky Way and the starry night.

Tomorrow's picture: not the Pleiades

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