Perched on top of the world

Standing majestically at the top of a hill at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, surveying the watercolour scenery of another sunset in Chile’s Atacama Desert, is the New Technology Telescope (NTT). The star of this Picture of the Week has been ticking along, making discovery after discovery, ever since it was inaugurated in 1989. Its home at La Silla sits at an altitude of 2400 metres and is far from sources of light pollution, giving the NTT uninterrupted views of the Universe.

This plucky telescope has a 3.58-metre primary mirror, which it uses to observe the cosmos in optical and near-infrared wavelengths of light. Currently, the NTT is equipped with two instruments: the Son of ISAAC (SOFI) and the ESO Faint Object Spectrograph and Camera 2 (EFOSC2). The former received its unusual name because of its similarity to an instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT, located further north) that went by the name ISAAC. Instruments like SOFI that observe infrared light can pierce through cosmic dust better than facilities observing at other wavelengths, peeling back a veil shrouding the Universe. 

As for EFOSC2, it has had a rather nomadic life: it started operating at the NTT in 1989 and then it was relocated twice to other telescopes at La Silla before returning to the NTT in 2008. Having undergone several improvements over the years, it remains a highly versatile instrument at La Silla.


ESO/A. Ghizzi Panizza (

About the Image

Release date:16 October 2023, 06:00
Size:6990 x 2860 px

About the Object

Name:New Technology Telescope
Type:Unspecified : Technology : Observatory : Telescope
Category:La Silla

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