A drone flight over ESO’s experimental sites in Chile

Paola Catapano, a member of CERN’s Communication Group, and Mike Struik, a member of the TE Department, were invited to visit ESO’s experimental sites – the ALMA observatory and the Very Large Telescope in Paranal, Chile. Enjoy some of the beautiful images they sent to the Bulletin.


Image courtesy Paola Catapano and Mike Struik.

The 66 radio astronomy antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory at 5,000 m altitude on the Chajnantor highland in Chile. The ALMA array specialises in the cold, invisible Universe, catching radiation from millimetre and submillimetre radiowaves night and day. ALMA is an international partnership between the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan, together with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile.


Image courtesy Paola Catapano and Mike Struik.

Sunset at ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT). Situated at an altitude of 2,600 m on the Paranal mountain, VLT is the most powerful optical telescope in the world. It consists of four 8.2 m diameter Unit Telescopes (UTs) and four 1.8 m aperture Auxiliary movable Telescopes (ATs). The UTs work either individually or in a combined mode using interferometry, while the ATs are entirely dedicated to interferometry. The Interferometer of the VLT (VLTI) is the most advanced optical interferometry facility in the world.


Image courtesy Paola Catapano and Mike Struik.

The Armazones peak, about 20 km from Paranal, where construction work has started on the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Its 39-metre diameter mirror will be the largest astronomical mirror ever built. Thanks to these huge dimensions, the telescope will be able, among other things, to search for life on other planets.

The drone

The quadcopter that Mike Struik built and used to take these photographs is assembled from components from various manufacturers. It has a 650 mm, carbon-fibre, foldable frame, designed to fly at high altitude, with bigger propellers than usual, faster turning motors and an insulated battery. The drone was equipped with a GoPro HERO4 camera. When piloted at 5,100 m and -10 °C it flew flawlessly for about 10 minutes.


by CERN Bulletin