Astronomer’s Paradise is the first episode of Atacama Starry Nights timelapse movie series. Cerro Paranal is truly an astronomers paradise with its stunningly dark, steady and transparent sky. Located in the barren Atacama Desert of Chile it is home to some of the world’s leading telescopes. Operated by the European Southern Observatory (eso.org) the Very Large Telescope (VLT) is located on Paranal, composed of four 8 m telescopes which can combine their light to make a giant telescope by interferometry. Four smaller auxiliary telescopes, each 1.8 m in aperture, are important elements of the VLT interferometer.
Walking on the desert near Paranal between the scattered stones and boulders on the pale red dust feels like being on Mars but under the Earth sky. It is an amazing experience to be under an ideal night sky, a pure natural beauty unspoiled by urban lights. On Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert you look all around the horizon and there is no prominent sign of city lights, neither direct lights or light domes. There are not many locations left on this planet where you can still experience a dark sky like this. I have been to similar dark skies in other continents from the heart of Sahara in Algeria to Himalayas or islands in the Pacific. But what makes Atacama beat others is being dry and clear for so many nights per year. Paranal was selected for cutting edge astronomical observations also because of the sky transparency and steady atmospheric condition which let astronomers peer in to tiny details in the deep cosmos using giant telescopes.