In Hidden Universe, two telescopes serve as our vehicles to space, taking audiences on a ride to the farthest reaches of the universe. These technological marvels situated in the Atacama Desert of Chile, enable astronomers – and Hidden Universe audiences — to see a world concealed from our view, revealing new insights about the cosmos.
- The spectacular red laser beam shooting from one of the VLT’s telescopes is a laser guide star.
Its part of the VLT´s adaptive optics system and is launched from “Yepun” (or unit telescope 4). It’s used for adaptive optics when good reference stars are not found in the field of view. “Yepun” typically observes with the laser guide star about 25% of the time.
- The VLT has stimulated a new age of discoveries, with several notable scientific firsts!
- discovered the first-ever image of a planet outside our Solar System – an extrasolar planet.
- tracked individual stars moving around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way
- observed the afterglow of the furthest know Gamma-Ray Burst.
- The Residencia served as a backdrop for part of the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace. Perfectly integrated into the Mars-like landscape (in order to affect the astronomical observations as little as possible), it’s no surprise that the Residencia was chosen as a Bond villain’s hide-out.
- ALMA has vision up to ten times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.
- The newly-built ALMA telescope has already provided unprecedented views with only a portion of its full array. For the first time, in 2012, ALMA found sugar molecules in the gas surrounding a young star. This is not the same sugar we use in our coffee but this molecule is one of the ingredients in the formation of RNA, one of the building blocks of life closely related to DNA. The discovery shows that the building blocks of life are in the right place, at the right time, to be included in planets forming around the star.
- ALMA is a revolutionary design composed of 66 high-precision antennas that work together as a single telescope. Each antenna collects radiation coming from space and focuses it onto a receiver. The signals from the antennas are then brought together and processed by a specialised supercomputer: the ALMA correlator. The 66 antennas can be arranged in different configurations, allowing ALMA to have a powerful variable zoom.
The VLT (or Very Large Telescope) located at Paranal Observatory is composed of four, large optical telescopes that use lasers to create fake stars as a means to gauge the atmospheric distortion of received light.
The ALMA telescope (or Atacama Large Millimeter Array) is actually 66 dishes connected to operate as one giant “eye on the sky.” ALMA sees into the darkest regions of space by capturing images with wavelengths outside visible light.
Located in the middle of one of driest and most inhospitable areas in the Chilean Atacama Desert, the Paranal Residencia at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) is the “hotel” where astronomers live and work. Sheltered from the extreme conditions outside, the Residencia is an oasis with all the creature comforts: a swimming pool, a library, a restaurant, a cinema and other recreational areas. Astronomers from all over the world are drawn here by their passion for the stars. Returning from long shifts at the VLT, they can breathe moist air and feel at home in the desert.
The Very Large Telescope (VLT) is perched on the mountain-top above the Residencia. When architects built the Residencia, they took advantage of an existing depression in the ground, creating a unique, four-floor subterranean building. If we ever colonize another planet, it’s an example of the kind of biosphere that could be built.