Paranal Observatory in Atacama Desert, Chile

Paranal Observatory is an astronomical observatory located on the mountains of Cerro Paranal in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, at an altitude of 2,635 meters, about 120 kilometers south of Antofagasta and 80 km north of Taltal. Far from city lights, high above sea level, with more than 350 cloudless days a year, Atacama desert is an ideal location for ground-based astronomy.

The Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Cerro Paranal is European Southern Observatory's premier site for observations in the visible and infrared light, and at one time, was one of the most powerful optical array in the world. This groundbreaking observatory consist of four separate 8.2 m (320 in) telescopes and a large collection of instruments. Additionally, the four main telescopes can combine their light to operate as a single device. Unknown to most people except astronomers and photographers, the observatory had a brief moment of mainstream fame in 2008 when it appeared in the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace.

In addition to the telescopes, there are control buildings and maintenance facilities as well as a hotel which provides accommodation for staff and visitors. This is located 200 meters lower and 3 km from the telescopes, and embedded half into the mountain with the concrete coloured to blend into the landscape.

One of the best thing about Paranal Observatory is it offers free tours to visitors.

Auxiliary Telescope at the VLT Paranal.

The full moon rises behind Paranal Observatory.

Creating an artificial star using laser.

The new PARLA laser in operation at ESO’s Paranal Observatory.

Aerial view of the Paranal Observatory taken in December 2012.

The partially underground hotel.

Star Trails over the VLT in Paranal.

Rare 360-degree Panorama of the Southern Sky.