The Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Cerro Paranal is ESO's premier site for observations in the visible and infrared. All four unit telescopes of 8.2m diameter are individually in operation with the instruments listed below.
The VLT offers also the possibility of combining coherently the light from the four UTs to work as an interferometer, the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), with its own suite of instruments, ultimately providing imagery at the milli arcsecond level as well as astrometry at 10 micro arcsecond precision. In addition to the 8.2m telescopes the VLTI will soon be complemented with four Auxiliary Telescopes (AT) of 1.8m diameter to improve its imaging capabilities and enable full nighttime use on a year-round basis
Two telescopes for imaging surveys are also under construction for Paranal, the VLT Survey Telescope (VST, 2.6m) for the visible, and the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA, 4m).
NewsPlease check the Latest News from Paranal Observatory and the Latest News on ESO Instrumentation.
First Generation VLT Instruments
Ten of ultimately eleven first generation instruments are in operation at the VLT. They are offered each semester through a Call for observing proposals and are operated by Paranal Science Operations. The remaining instrument, HAWK-I, will be installed later in 2007. We give an overview of their global observing capabilities, together with a short description of the VLT's observational strategy. The final instrument distribution among the four VLT Unit Telescopes is shown in the clickable map and table below, which also contain links to VLTI, VST & VISTA instruments.
(First Generation Paranal instruments clickable map)
Currently, the instruments are or will be mounted on the telescopes at these foci:
|Nasmyth A||Cassegrain||Nasmyth B||interferometric|
|Laser Guide Star|
Instruments or facilities still under construction or commissioning are indicated in italics.
The process for the construction of the approved second generation of VLT Instruments is now in progress:
- X-shooter (a wide-band [UV to near infrared] point source spectrometer) is in the final design phase
- KMOS (a cryogenic infrared multi-object spectrometer) is in the pre-design phase
- MUSE (a huge "3-dimensional" spectroscopic explorer) is in the pre-design phase
- SPHERE (a high contrast exoplanet searcher) is in the pre-design phase
VLT Visitor Instruments
Apart from these "Facility Instruments" which are available to the whole community ESO offers the possibility to instrument teams to build instruments for their own use, highly specialised towards the well defined scientific goals of the team. See the dedicated page for this Visitor Focus.
Imaging survey instruments at Paranal
Other facilities of use for observers
Paranal is operating an All Sky Monitor called MASCOT. Although no real-time images are (yet) available, images (taken every three minutes) can be retrieved from the Science Archive.