A magical night in the Atacama Desert

There’s magic in this Picture of the Week; can you feel it? The strange geological formations protruding out of the desert floor are twisted and gnarled like old wizards’ hats, while the sky above is filled with thousands of stars and a myriad of mesmerising colours. This is Valle de la Luna — meaning “Valley of the Moon” — in the Chilean Atacama Desert, close to where the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which ESO is a partner, is located. 

It’s easy to see where the valley gets its name from; the moon-like formations on the dried-up salt beds have been eroded by aeons of exposure to the elements and feel far more out of this world than of it. Its altitude and dry air, as well as its distance from civilisation, make it a great place for stargazing. This is particularly important for ALMA, as water vapour in the atmosphere can absorb the invisible light collected by this radio telescope.

As the night unfolds, the sky comes alive with the glowing cascade of the Milky Way, illuminated by gas and stars. The vibrant red colour dancing across the Milky Way comes from hydrogen atoms distributed throughout our galaxy.


About the Image

Release date:27 November 2023, 06:00
Size:11589 x 12773 px

About the Object

Name:Milky Way
Type:Unspecified : Sky Phenomenon : Night Sky : Milky Way

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