|A laser from the VLT site in Chile used to observe our Galaxy's center ~ © Yuri Beletsky|
Our Photo of the Week (POTW) was taken by Yuri Beletsky, using a Canon 5D Mark II camera and a Canon 15mm/2.8 fisheye lens. The image is actually a panorama consisting of two stitched images. Exposure time for each panel was 30 seconds. The raw images were stitched using PtGui software, and further color processing was done in Photoshop CS5.
Yuri's biggest challenge was finding the proper shooting angle. "I've taken many images of the working laser guide star facility before, and this time I wanted something different. That night I was walking around the dome trying to find the right spot. At some point I approached the dome close enough that the laser beam, pointing directly in the direction of the Galactic center, was spanning far behind and over my head. The view angle was incredible and I realized that even a one shot with fisheye lens wouldn't be enough to cover it."
Because of the two-shot panoramic view, it looks like the laser strikes the Galactic center which appears to be at zenith. In reality, the Galactic center was setting over the ocean just behind the back of the photographer. One can also see another dome "hanging" in the upper left corner of the image.
A Lesson Learned: This image turned out to be unique in many aspects. Although Yuri had taken many images of the same laser at night, countless times before, this time the composition turned out to be very special. The lesson he learned is that one should never stop exploring new fresh ideas, even in the places which have become so familiar. The image has since been published in many magazines, books, posters, used by companies. The photo has also been an Astronomy Picture of the Day (NASA APOD), and it was selected as Picture of the Year (2010) by Wikimedia Commons.
Best Air in the World: The dark skies above the Atacama Desert provide a unique opportunity to reveal the majesty of our cosmos. Las Campanas, which hosts two 6.5-m Magellan telescopes, is one of four large observatories located in Chile's Atacama desert, the driest place on Earth. The conditions are excellent for astronomy because of the exceptional quality of the atmosphere. Not only are there more than 300 clear nights per year here, but due to very low turbulence of the air, they can obtain very sharp images, which is impossible to get in other places. That is why Chile is often called as "astronomical paradise" or "astronomical capital" of the world.
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