Banishing Light Pollution

This beautiful image features the Milky Way rising over the Residencia at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, which can be seen atop a mountain in the distance. The Residencia is ESO’s private hotel for staff at Paranal, a home away from home for the astronomers, engineers, technicians, and other visitors to the site. Known as an “oasis for astronomers”, the building includes a restaurant, music room, library, swimming pool, and even a sauna to help astronomers to relax between and after their shifts. It was even featured in the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace” (2008).  This photograph was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Petr Horálek, and is a great demonstration of just how artificial light can pollute its environment — the brightness of the Residencia lights seems almost blinding compared to the stars. Artificial light scatters off the particles in our atmosphere and can drown out the night sky. Preserving the dark skies around Paranal is of the utmost importance to ESO — the darkness surrounding the observatory allows astronomers to obtain excellent data.  The preservation of dark skies is critical to the sensitivity and clarity of science observations. The non-celestial lights in this image are relatively few — a stark contrast to the streetlight-studded roads and illuminated cities you may be used to.

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