Image: Super dry day at ESO Paranal

February 3, 2014
A panorama of the ESO Paranal Observatory site, made during an episode of extremely low humidity on 5 July 2012. Credit: ESO/G. Brammer

On 5 July 2012, a plume of Antarctic air descended over the European Southern Observatory's Paranal site in Chile. The home of the Very Large Telescope, Paranal is 2635 m above sea level and is almost always one of the best sites in the world for optical and near-infrared astronomy.

But for the 12 hours when the cold front visited the site, the atmosphere became extraordinarily dry, making the skies even clearer than usual. The team of scientists who report on this unusual event, led by ESO's Florian Kerber, now wonder if astronomers could exploit events of this type to make the best possible infrared observations of objects in the wider universe.

They publish their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

During this fleeting period of super dry skies, astronomer and ESO Photo Ambassador Gabriel Brammer captured a remarkable panoramic image of the Paranal site.

Explore further: European Extremely Large Telescope site chosen

More information: "An episode of extremely low precipitable water vapour over Paranal observatory", F. Kerber, R. R. Querel, R. Rondanelli, R. Hanuschik, M. van den Ancker, O. Cuevas, A. Smette, J. Smoker, T. Rose and H. Czekala, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. First published online: January 28, 2014 DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stt2404

Related Stories

European Extremely Large Telescope site chosen

April 26, 2010

On April 26, 2010, the ESO Council selected Cerro Armazones as the baseline site for the planned 42-meter European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Cerro Armazones is a mountain at an altitude of 3060 meters in the central ...

Christmas comet Lovejoy captured at Paranal Observatory

December 24, 2011

( -- The recently discovered Comet Lovejoy has been captured in stunning photos and time-lapse video taken from ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. The comet graced the southern sky after it had unexpectedly ...

E-ELT construction work to start

December 11, 2013

At a ceremony at ESO's Vitacura offices in Santiago on 9 December 2013 the ESO Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, and senior representatives of the Chilean company ICAFAL Ingeniería y Construcción S.A., signed a contract for ...

Sneak preview of Survey Telescope treasure trove

January 22, 2014

The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile has captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home ...

Recommended for you

NASA's space-station resupply missions to relaunch

November 29, 2015

NASA's commercial space program returns to flight this week as one of its private cargo haulers, Orbital ATK, is to launch its first supply shipment to the International Space Station in more than 13 months.

The hottest white dwarf in the Galaxy

November 25, 2015

Astronomers at the Universities of Tübingen and Potsdam have identified the hottest white dwarf ever discovered in our Galaxy. With a temperature of 250,000 degrees Celsius, this dying star at the outskirts of the Milky ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.