Names of VLT Unit Telescopes

What do the Names of the VLT Unit Telescopes Mean?

It had long been ESO's intention to provide "real" names to the four VLT Unit Telescopes, to replace the original, somewhat dry and technical designations as UT1 to UT4. In March 1999, at the time of the Paranal Inauguration, four meaningful names of objects in the sky in the Mapuche (Mapudungun) language were chosen. This indigeneous population lives mostly in the area south of the Bio-Bio river, some 500 km south of Santiago de Chile.

An essay contest was arranged in this regard among schoolchildren of the Chilean II Region, of which Antofagasta is the capital, to write about the implications of these names. It drew many excellent entries dealing with the rich cultural heritage of ESO's host country.

The jury was unanimous in its choice of the winning essay. This was submitted by 17-year old Jorssy Albanez Castilla from Chuquicamata near the city of Calama. She received the prize, an amateur telescope, during the Paranal Inauguration.

Thus, the four Unit Telescopes are now known as:

  • Antu (UT1; The Sun ),
  • Kueyen (UT2; The Moon ),
  • Melipal (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
  • Yepun (UT4; Venus - as evening star).

Originally translated as "Sirius", it now seems that "YEPUN" actually means "Venus". For more details, read On the Meaning of "Yepun".

An audio sequence with these names pronounced in the Mapuche (Mapudungun) language by a native speaker is available below:

[RealMedia - Audio only - 46k]

The speaker is Domingo Carilao from "Centro de Estudios y Documentación Mapuche (CEDM) Liwen" in Temuco (Chile) (email: