VLTI First Fringes with Two Auxiliary Telescopes at Paranal
Worlds Largest Interferometer with Moving Optical Telescopes on Track
The Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) at Paranal Observatory has just seen another extension of its already impressive capabilities by combining interferometrically the light from two relocatable 1.8-m Auxiliary Telescopes.
Following the installation of the first Auxiliary Telescope (AT) in January 2004 (see ESO PR 01/04), the second AT arrived at the VLT platform by the end of 2004. Shortly thereafter, during the night of February 2 to 3, 2005, the two high-tech telescopes teamed up and quickly succeeded in performing interferometric observations.
This achievement heralds an era of new scientific discoveries. Both Auxiliary Telescopes will be offered from October 1, 2005 to the community of astronomers for routine observations, together with the MIDI instrument.
By the end of 2006, Paranal will be home to four operational ATs that may be placed at 30 different positions and thus be combined in a very large number of ways (“baselines”). This will enable the VLTI to operate with enormous flexibility and, in particular, to obtain extremely detailed (sharp) images of celestial objects – ultimately with a resolution that corresponds to detecting an astronaut on the Moon.
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