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Imagine Your Workstation Had This View of the Galaxy


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Being an astronomer working at the Very Large Telescope is probably one of the best jobs in the world. Just look at the view this office has. It’s full of stars!

The VLT is a giant telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The office in this image is next to the VLT control room. That black object outside the window is part of the control building, where you can admire our galaxy in its ethereal beauty.

As the ESO explains, astronomers at the VLT are careful to shield artificial light that might leak out into the night from their offices:

In this image, the dark lanes of the Milky Way are visible, dense clouds of dust and gas that block out the light from background stars. The varying colours of the surrounding visible stars result from their different ages and temperatures — young, hot stars are very blue-white in colour, whilst the older, cooler generation appear more orange or red.

For the astronomers, a sight like this means that good data is on the way due to the lack of polluting moonlight. In order to help keep the sky as dark as possible, any lights within rooms not currently in use inside the control building are turned off and blackout blinds are put over the windows. Astronomers walk outside only with the aid of torchlight, preferably with a red filter so as to preserve their night vision — important if you want to gaze at the wonders above without the aid of a telescope.

Most of us consider ourselves lucky if we get natural light in our offices. For these astronomers, it’s all about finding perfect darkness.


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