UK's New VISTA Telescope starts work

Image of the Vista Enclosure
Image of the Vista Enclosure.

A new UK-designed telescope, that can map the sky much faster and deeper than any other infrared telescope, has just released its first images of the southern sky.

The Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, or VISTA for short, is the world's largest telescope dedicated to mapping the sky in infrared light and will reveal a completely new view of the southern sky.

It is the latest telescope to be added to European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, and is located close to the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT).

With sixteen 4-megapixel detectors sensitive to infrared light and a large 4.1 metre mirror, VISTA will be able to capture deep wide-field images of objects seen above the southern hemisphere, such as that shown below. Its field-of-view will be around ten times the area of the Moon.

VISTA image of Flame Nebula
VISTA image of star-forming region within the Flame Nebula.

Because VISTA is looking in the infrared part of the spectrum, it will detect much cooler objects than can be seen with optical (the light our eyes see) detectors, such as clouds of gas and dust. Infrared observations also allow us to see stars embedded in thick dust clouds, which would otherwise be impossible to see. This is because infrared light passes through dust much more easily than optical light.

VISTA was conceived and developed by a consortium of 18 universities in the United Kingdom and was recently handed over to ESO for future operational management. If you would like to know more about VISTA, please visit the following link:

VISTA Website