Posts tagged desert

Posted 1 year ago

High Energy Stereoscopic System II 
Image Courtesy: H.E.S.S. Collaboration

Explanation: The largest of its kind, the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) II telescope stands in the foreground of this photo. Tilted horizontally it reflects the inverted landscape of the Namibian desert in a segmented mirror 24 meters wide and 32 meters tall, equal in area to two tennis courts. Now beginning an exploration of the Universe at extreme energies, H.E.S.S. II saw first light on July 26. Most ground-based telescopes with lenses and mirrors are hindered by the Earth’s nurturing, protective atmosphere that blurs images and scatters and absorbs light. But the H.E.S.S. II telescope is a cherenkov telescope, designed to detect gamma rays - photons with over 100 billion times the energy of visible light - and actually requires the atmosphere to operate. As the gamma rays impact the upper atmosphere they produce air showers of high-energy particles. A large camera at the mirror’s focus records in detail the brief flashes of optical light, called cherenkov light, created by the air shower particles. The H.E.S.S. II telescope operates in concert with the array of four other 12 meter cherenkov telescopes to provide multiple stereoscopic views of the air showers, relating them to the energies and directions of the incoming cosmic gamma rays.

Posted 2 years ago

A Morning Line of Stars and Planets
Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution for Science)

Explanation: Early morning dog walkers got a visual treat last week as bright stars and planets appeared to line up. Pictured above, easily visible from left to right, were the Pleiades open star cluster, Jupiter, Venus, and the “Follower" star Aldebaran, all seen before a starry background. The image was taken from the Atacama desert in western South America. The glow of the rising Sun can be seen over the eastern horizon. Jupiter and Venus will continue to dazzle pre-dawn strollers all over planet Earth for the rest of the month, although even now the morning planets are seen projected away from the line connecting their distant stellar sky mates.

Posted 2 years ago
The Snows of Paranal
Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (ESO)

Explanation: Recorded last week, this dawn portrait of snowy mountain and starry sky captures a very rare scenario. The view does feature a pristine sky above the 2,600 meter high mountain Cerro Paranal, but clear skies over Paranal are not at all unusual. That’s one reason the mountain is home to the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope. Considering the number of satellites now in orbit, the near sunrise streak of a satellite glinting at the upper left isn’t rare either. And the long, bright trail of a meteor can often be spotted this time of year too. The one at the far right is associated with the annual Perseid meteor shower whose peak is expected tomorrow (Friday, August 12). In fact, the rarest aspect of the picture is just the snow. Cerro Paranal rises above South America’s Atacama desert, known as the driest place on planet Earth.