Image: Super dry day at ESO Paranal

Feb 03, 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: First stars in the universe left a unique signature

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

Sneak preview of Survey Telescope treasure trove

Jan 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, ...

Christmas comet Lovejoy captured at Paranal Observatory

Dec 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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 ...

E-ELT construction work to start

Dec 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 cont ...

European Extremely Large Telescope site chosen

Apr 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 ...

Recommended for you

NGC 2367: Buried in the heart of a giant

3 hours ago

This rich view of an array of colorful stars and gas was captured by the Wide Field Imager camera, on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. It shows a young open cluster ...

NASA missions monitor a waking black hole

15 hours ago

NASA's Swift satellite detected a rising tide of high-energy X-rays from the constellation Cygnus on June 15, just before 2:32 p.m. EDT. About 10 minutes later, the Japanese experiment on the International ...

What is the habitable zone?

Jun 30, 2015

The weather in your hometown is downright uninhabitable. There's scorching heatwaves, annual tyhpoonic deluges, and snow deep enough to bury a corn silo.

Galaxy survey to probe why the universe is accelerating

Jun 30, 2015

We know that our universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, but what causes this growth remains a mystery. The most likely explanation is that a strange force dubbed "dark energy" is driving it. Now a ...

High resolution far-infrared all-sky image data release

Jun 30, 2015

A research group led by a University of Tokyo researcher, using the AKARI satellite's Far-Infrared All-Sky data, have created all-sky image maps and released the full database to researchers around the world ...

User comments : 0

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.