Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Solar Games at Paranal

05.05.2008
ESO Staff Share Stunning Images of Solar Phenomena

Cerro Paranal, home of ESO's Very Large Telescope, is certainly one of the best astronomical sites on the planet. Stunning images, obtained by ESO staff at Paranal, of the green and blue flashes, as well as of the so-called 'Gegenschein', are real cases in point.

The Earth's atmosphere is a gigantic prism that disperses sunlight. In the most ideal atmospheric conditions, such as those found regularly above Cerro Paranal, this will lead to the appearance of so-called green and blue flashes at sunset. The phenomenon is so popular on the site that it is now the tradition for the Paranal staff to gather daily on the telescope platform to observe the sunset and its possible green flash before starting their long night of observations.

The green and blue flashes are fleeting events that require an unobstructed view of the setting Sun, and a very stable atmosphere. These conditions are very often met at Paranal, a 2635m high mountain in the Chilean Atacama Desert, where the sky is cloudless more than 300 days a year. Paranal is home of ESO's Very Large Telescope, an ensemble of four 8.2-m telescopes and four 1.8-m Auxiliary Telescopes that together form the world's most advanced optical telescope.

ESO staff Stéphane Guisard has been chasing green flashes for many years and has been able to capture them on many occasions. The picture shown above is one of many examples from his collection. "The most challenging is to capture the green flash while still seeing the rest of the Sun with all its colours," says Guisard.

His colleague Guillaume Blanchard was even luckier. On Christmas Eve, as he was one of the few to follow the tradition of looking at the sunset, he had the chance to immortalise a blue flash using his hobby telescope.

ESO astronomer Yuri Beletsky also likes to take photographs from Paranal, but he prefers the night views. This allows him to make use of the unique conditions above the site to make stunning images. On some of these, he has captured other extremely interesting effects related to the Sun: the so-called Zodiacal light and the 'Gegenschein'.

Both the Zodiacal light and the Gegenschein (which is German for "counter shine") are due to reflected sunlight by interplanetary dust. These are so faint that they are only visible in places free from light pollution.

Most of the interplanetary dust in the Solar System lies in the ecliptic, the plane close to which the planets are moving around the Sun, and the Zodiacal light and Gegenschein are thus seen in the region centred around the ecliptic. While the Zodiacal light is seen in the vicinity of the Sun, the Gegenschein is seen in the direction opposite to the Sun.

Each of the small particles of dust, left over from comets and asteroids, acts as a small Moon reflecting the light coming from our host star. "If you could see the individual dust particles then you would see the ones in the middle of the Gegenschein looking like very tiny full moons, while the ones hidden in the faint part of the dust band would look like tiny crescent moons," explains ESO astronomer Colin Snodgrass. "But even the VLT cannot see such tiny individual dust particles out in space. Instead we see the combined effect, in photos like these, of millions of tiny dust particles reflecting light back to us from the Sun."

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/press-rel/pr-2008/pr-12-08.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms
16.10.2017 | Université de Genève

nachricht On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves
16.10.2017 | Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

Conference Week RRR2017 on Renewable Resources from Wet and Rewetted Peatlands

28.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>