European Southern Observatory

Between 2008 and 2012, Lee produced content for the European Southern Observatory. His work included writing detailed press and photo releases, as well as official announcements.

The Paranal Basecamp from above

The Paranal Basecamp from above

Looking down from a vantage point at the ESO Very Large Telescope on Cerro Paranal in the Chilean Atacama Desert, the observatory’s basecamp stretches out below. The Paranal Residencia, a haven for those working on the mountain, can be seen near the centre with the dome on its roof. To the left of the Residencia, on the other side of the road, is the basecamp’s gymnasium, and to the left of that is the Mirror Maintenance Building (MMB), where the giant VLT mirror

Cascading Milky Way

Many astronomical photographs capture stunning vistas of the skies, and this is no exception. However, there’s something unusual about this panorama. Behind ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), two streams of stars seem to cascade down like waterfalls, or perhaps rise like smoke columns to the heavens. That’s because this panorama captures the entire dome of the sky, from the zenith down to the horizon, a full 360 degrees around. The two streams are in fact a single band: the plane of our galaxy, t

Spinning into action

The dynamism of ESO's Very Large Telescope in operation is wonderfully encapsulated in this unusual photograph, taken just after sunset at the moment Unit Telescope 1 starts work. An extended exposure time of 26 seconds has allowed ESO Photo Ambassador Gerhard Hüdepohl to record the movement of the dome, looking out through the opening from within, as the system swings into action. The rotating walls of the dome look like an ethereal swirl through which a slice of the Atacama Desert can be glimp

Llullaillaco, clear as day

Bathed in the pristine light of the Chilean Atacama Desert, the ESO VLT’s Auxiliary Telescope 2 stands on Cerro Paranal. It is one of four that are used with the Very Large Telescope Interferometer. During the day, its bulbous dome is closed, protecting the sensitive telescope within.

The magnificent 6739-metre volcano Llullaillaco stands proudly in the background of this photograph. Although it looks relatively close on the horizon, it is actually an incredible 190 kilometres away, on the bord

Twinkle twinkle little star

A glowing laser shines forth from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope. Piercing the dark Chilean skies, its mission is to help astronomers explore the far reaches of the cosmos. ESO Photo Ambassador Gerhard Hüdepohl was on hand to capture the moment in a stunning portrait of modern science in action.

We have all gazed up at the night sky and seen the stars gently twinkle as the Earth’s turbulent atmosphere causes their light to shimmer. This is undoubtedly a beautiful sight

Very Large Telescope ready for action

As the Sun sets in the north-western sky above the Chilean Atacama Desert, astronomical work is about to begin. This is home to ESO’s Very Large Telescope, one of the most powerful astronomical devices ever constructed. It is located atop Cerro Paranal, a 2600-metre high mountain some 120 kilometres south of the city of Antofagasta.

This unusual 360-degree panoramic projection reveals the observing site from a fresh perspective. In the centre of the image, staff at Paranal have gathered to watc

A Cosmic Superbubble

ESO’s Very Large Telescope captured this striking view of the nebula around the star cluster NGC 1929 within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. A colossal example of what astronomers call a superbubble dominates this stellar nursery. It is being carved by the winds from bright young stars and the shockwaves from supernova explosions.

The Large Magellanic Cloud is a small neighbouring galaxy to the Milky Way. It contains many regions where clouds of gas and dust

Hidden treasure on our doorstep

The MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at La Silla in Chile is a powerful instrument that can capture distant celestial objects, but it has been used here to image a heavenly body that is much closer to home: the Moon. The data used for this image were selected by Andy Strappazzon from Belgium, who participated in ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition. Andy’s composition of the Moon was the fourth highest ranked entry in the competition.

This image of the crescent Moon shows sunligh

A VLT Auxiliary Telescope and Cerro Armazones

ESO Photo Ambassador Gianluca Lombardi was in the perfect position to capture a crisp dusk view of Auxiliary Telescope (AT) 2, on Cerro Paranal. Once the Sun sets, the cloudless skies above the Chilean desert will be filled with stars, and AT2 will begin its work. In the background on the left is Cerro Armazones, with a road zigzagging to its peak, home of the future European Extremely Large Telescope. Site-testing equipment can be seen on the peak. The lower peak to the right of Cerro Armazones

A slice of the sky

This spectacular approximately 230-degree panoramic photograph of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Gerhard Hüdepohl, gives us an inspiring view of a slice of the sky, encompassing both our nearest celestial neighbour and star clusters hundreds of light-years away.

The VLT’s four large Unit Telescopes dominate the foreground. With gigantic mirrors 8.2 metres across, they allow us to peer into space and see things four billion times fainter than we can see with our

First European ALMA Antenna Handed Over to Joint ALMA Observatory

First European ALMA Antenna Handed Over to Joint ALMA Observatory

The first European antenna for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) project has just been handed over to the Joint ALMA Observatory. The antenna, which has a dish 12 metres in diameter and weighs about 95 tonnes, was moved from the Site Erection Facility where it was assembled and tested, to the observatory’s Operations Support Facility (OSF).

Although this was only a short trip between two adjacent sites at a

On top of the world

On top of the world

Some places on Earth can seem like alien environments, as this stunning 360 degree panorama shows. It is not the strange surface of an exoplanet, but rather the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. This unearthly location is home to ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Chajnantor was chosen because the rarefied atmosphere above this very high site is so dry that, unlike at most other places on Earth, it is largely transparent to the wavelengths of ligh

Celestial Fireworks from Dying Stars

This image of the nebula NGC 3582, which was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, shows giant loops of gas bearing a striking resemblance to solar prominences. These loops are thought to have been ejected by dying stars, but new stars are also being born within this stellar nursery. These energetic youngsters emit intense ultraviolet radiation that makes the gas in the nebula glow, producing the fiery display shown here.


ESO Headquarters at sunset

This panorama photograph shows the European Southern Observatory’s Headquarters in Garching, near Munich, Germany. The image shows the view from the roof of the main building just after sunset. This is the scientific, technical and administrative centre for ESO’s operations, and the base from which many astronomers conduct their research. The scientists, technicians and administrators who work here come from many different backgrounds, but all have one thing in common: a passion for astronomy.

Science in School Issue 18 Now Available

Science in School Issue 18 Now Available

The latest issue of Science in School, the European journal for science teachers, is now available online and in print. Issue 18 marks five years since Science in School was launched in March 2006. The journal promotes inspiring science teaching by encouraging communication between teachers, scientists and everyone else involved in European science education, and every issue is jam-packed with informative articles.

This issue features cutting-edge scien

Bridging the abyss

Deep in the Chilean Atacama Desert, far from sources of light pollution and other people-related disturbances, there is a tranquil sky like few others on Earth. This is the site for the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, a scientific machine at the cutting-edge of technology.

In this panoramic photograph, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds — satellite galaxies of our own — glow brightly on the left, while the VLT’s Unit Telescope 1 stands vigil on the right. Appearing to b

The Dusty Disc of NGC 247

This image of NGC 247, taken by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, reveals the fine details of this highly inclined spiral galaxy and its rich backdrop. Astronomers say this highly tilted orientation, when viewed from Earth, explains why the distance to this prominent galaxy was previously overestimated.

The spiral galaxy NGC 247 is one of the closest spiral galaxies of the southern sky. In this new view from the Wide Field Imager on

HAWK-I instrument spies a super galaxy

The HAWK-I instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile has been used to great effect in producing this distinctive image of the distant galaxy NGC 157. Boasting a central sweep of stars resembling a giant "S", reminiscent of the comic book hero Superman’s symbol, this celestial spiral is indeed a super example of how new technology is helping us to learn more about the cosmos.

HAWK-I stands for High-Acuity Wide-field K-band Imager, and it is one of the lat

A Picture-perfect Pure-disc Galaxy

The bright galaxy NGC 3621, captured here using the Wide Field Imager on the 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, appears to be a fine example of a classical spiral. But it is in fact rather unusual: it does not have a central bulge and is therefore described as a pure-disc galaxy.

NGC 3621 is a spiral galaxy about 22 million light-years away in the constellation of Hydra (The Sea Snake). It is comparatively bright and can be seen well in moderate-sized telescopes. This p

From one "alien world" to another

From one "alien world" to another

What looks like a barren and inhospitable alien landscape in this 360-degree panorama is in fact the site for ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT for short. When construction begins the uninhabited mountaintop left of the centre will become a hive of activity as engineers, technicians and scientists work on building the world’s biggest eye on the sky.

In many ways Chile’s Cerro Armazones may seem like an alien world. The environment is harsh, wi

A new era for astronomy

As the Sun sets over Cerro Armazones, plans are well advanced for building the world's biggest “eye on the sky”: ESO's European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). With a primary mirror 39 metres in diameter, the E-ELT will dwarf all existing visible-light telescopes.

Site selection has been a vital part of the plans for the E-ELT. Over the course of several years a team of experts investigated locations around the world, looking for the best place to host such an ambitious project. The site for

The long and winding road

This splendid picture shows the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Cerro Paranal in the Chilean Atacama desert. The mountaintop, 120 km south of the town of Antofagasta, is a remote haven for scientific exploration.

Its distance from populated areas means that light pollution is essentially non-existent, which helps to guarantee clear views for the telescopes. It also ensures that activity is not disturbed by other human activities, such as traffic on nearby roads o

Monuments of science

On a remote mountaintop, 2600 metres above sea level in the Chilean Atacama Desert, lies the world’s most advanced visible-light observatory. The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) is not only a window on the Universe; it is also a celebration of modern science and technology.

This photograph shows two of the four Unit Telescopes that make up the VLT. With its giant 8.2-metre diameter mirrors, sensitive detectors, and state-of-the art adaptive optics system, the VLT uses

ESO Releases The Messenger No. 142

This latest edition, issue 142, of the European Southern Observatory's quarterly journal The Messenger features articles on subjects that include:
• Observations of multiple stellar populations in globular clusters with FLAMES at the VLT
• The first part of the VIMOS upgrade
• The evolution of the mass–metallicity relation at z >3

The journal is available for download in PDF format. Interested individuals are also able to subscribe to paper copies free of charge via The Messenger's webpage.
Load More