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The constellations come out to play above the Very Large Telescope

Illustration for article titled The constellations come out to play above the Very Large Telescope

These buildings are three of the structures that make up the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, located in Chile's Atacama Desert. In the skies above them are the constellations Orion, Canis Major, and the Southern Cross, among many others.


This is just a section of Yuri Beletsky's full photograph, which reveals the entire Milky Way - along with various planets, constellations, and faraway galaxies - in the skies above the most powerful telescope array on the Earth's surface. NASA offers some context for this photo, as well as asking a rather interesting question: can you guess what that weird orange orb is in the bottom right of the photo?

Even seasoned sky enthusiasts might ponder the origin of the orange orb seen by scrolling across this panoramic image, taken last December. Perhaps identifying known objects will help...Rising diagonally from the ground to the right of Venus is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy. In the image, the band, which usually stretches dramatically overhead, appears to arch above the elevated Chilean landscape.

Under the Milky Way arch, toward the left, lie both the Large and Small Magellanic Cloud galaxies, while toward the right lies the constellation of Orion surrounded by the red ring of Barnard's Loop. On the ground, each of the four Very Large Telescopes is busy keeping an eye on the distant universe. The orange spot — it's the Moon. The image was taken during a total lunar eclipse when the normally bright full moon turned into a faint orb tinted orange by the intervening Earth's atmosphere.


Check out NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day for the full image and descriptions, which includes some very helpful annotations.


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imaginary friend

suck it, Northern Hemisphere!