Summary:

In an astronomical first, the European Southern Observatory is soliciting votes on where to train its Very Large Telescope next October 5. The ESO is offering a choice of 16 celestial bodies that will be within the VLT’s field of view on that date.

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When it comes to selecting subjects for very large and very expensive telescopes to study, scientists typically have to submit detailed proposals, wait for months and then often get shot down. Now, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which operates one of the biggest of these devices, the Very Large Telescope in the northern Chilean desert, is asking the public to weigh in.  It’s asking people to vote on what the VLT will focus on next October 5.

The VLT claims to be the world’s most advanced optical instrument, consisting of four separate telescopes that can work together to form a giant interferometer, an instrument which combines their signals to offer a better picture of their subject.

The ESO provided 16 possible celestial objects that will be within the VLT’s field of view on October 5.  As the ESO website states, the VLT uses a powerful telephoto lens “so its field of view is tiny. This means a very large object like the Orion Nebula or Carina Nebula would be far too big for the VLT to image.”

If you want to weigh in, here’s where to vote. 

VLT image ESO/G. LombardiOrion Nebula image courtesy of Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit.

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