From ESO: “VISTA: Pioneering New Survey Telescope Starts Work” Original Article from December 2009 – Fantastic Imagery
11 December 2009
Prof. Jim Emerson
Queen Mary, University of London
Tel: +44 794 127 1548
ESO Survey Telescopes PIO
Tel: +49 151 1055 5780
Science and Technology Facilities Council
Tel: +44 1793 44 2094
Queen Mary, University of London
Tel: +44 20 7882 7454
Upper left: This VISTA close-up of the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) shows the bright young stars at its core and the smoke-like tendrils of dust and gas in great detail. This extract covers a field about twelve arcminutes across.
Lower left : Close to the Flame Nebula lies a bright reflection nebula called NGC 2023.
Upper right : Close to the edge of the VISTA image (not shown on the main image above) lies a strange object known as Herbig-Haro 92 (HH92). This curiosity is part of a string of glowing clumps and filaments created by material blown out in a jet from a very young star. The star itself is buried deep in dust at the lower left of this cutout and is not even visible in this near-infrared VISTA image. This very small extract covers a field about three arcminutes across.
Lower right : The wide field of the VISTA camera includes another famous object — the Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33). In visible light the Horsehead is a dark and dusty silhouette set against a glowing background of glowing gas. In the VISTA infrared view the dust becomes largely transparent and the outline has an evocative wraithlike quality. This extract is about seven arcminutes across.
Credit: ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit
A new telescope — VISTA (the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) — has just started work at ESO’s Paranal Observatory and has made its first release of pictures. VISTA is a survey telescope working at infrared wavelengths and is the world’s largest telescope dedicated to mapping the sky. Its large mirror, wide field of view and very sensitive detectors will reveal a completely new view of the southern sky. Spectacular new images of the Flame Nebula [above], the centre of our Milky Way galaxy and the Fornax Galaxy Cluster show that it is working extremely well.
VISTA is the latest telescope to be added to ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. It is housed on the peak adjacent to the one hosting the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) and shares the same exceptional observing conditions. VISTA’s main mirror is 4.1 metres across and is the most highly curved mirror of this size and quality ever made — its deviations from a perfect surface are less than a few thousandths of the thickness of a human hair — and its construction and polishing presented formidable challenges.
VISTA was conceived and developed by a consortium of 18 universities in the United Kingdom  led by Queen Mary, University of London and became an in-kind contribution to ESO as part of the UK’s accession agreement. The telescope design and construction were project-managed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre (STFC, UK ATC). Provisional acceptance of VISTA was formally granted by ESO at a ceremony at ESO’s Headquarters in Garching, Germany, attended by representatives of Queen Mary, University of London and STFC, on 10 December 2009 and the telescope will now be operated by ESO.
“VISTA is a unique addition to ESO’s observatory on Cerro Paranal. It will play a pioneering role in surveying the southern sky at infrared wavelengths and will find many interesting targets for further study by the Very Large Telescope, ALMA and the future European Extremely Large Telescope,” says Tim de Zeeuw, the ESO Director General.
At the heart of VISTA is a 3-tonne camera containing 16 special detectors sensitive to infrared light, with a combined total of 67 million pixels. Observing at wavelengths longer than those visible with the human eye allows VISTA to study objects that are otherwise impossible to see in visible light because they are either too cool, obscured by dust clouds or because they are so far away that their light has been stretched beyond the visible range by the expansion of the Universe. To avoid swamping the faint infrared radiation coming from space, the camera has to be cooled to -200 degrees Celsius and is sealed with the largest infrared-transparent window ever made. The VISTA camera was designed and built by a consortium including the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the UK ATC and the University of Durham in the United Kingdom.
Because VISTA is a large telescope that also has a large field of view it can both detect faint sources and also cover wide areas of sky quickly. Each VISTA image captures a section of sky covering about ten times the area of the full Moon and it will be able to detect and catalogue objects over the whole southern sky with a sensitivity that is forty times greater than that achieved with earlier infrared sky surveys such as the highly successful Two Micron All-Sky Survey. This jump in observational power — comparable to the step in sensitivity from the unaided eye to Galileo’s first telescope — will reveal vast numbers of new objects and allow the creation of far more complete inventories of rare and exotic objects in the southern sky.
“We’re delighted to have been able to provide the astronomical community with the VISTA telescope. The exceptional quality of the scientific data is a tribute to all the scientists and engineers who were involved in this exciting and challenging project,” adds Ian Robson, Head of the UK ATC.
The first released image shows the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024), a spectacular star-forming cloud of gas and dust in the familiar constellation of Orion (the Hunter) and its surroundings. In visible light the core of the object is hidden behind thick clouds of dust, but the VISTA image, taken at infrared wavelengths, can penetrate the murk and reveal the cluster of hot young stars hidden within. The wide field of view of the VISTA camera also captures the glow of NGC 2023 and the ghostly form of the famous Horsehead Nebula.
The second image is a mosaic of two VISTA views towards the centre of our Milky Way galaxy in the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer). Vast numbers of stars are revealed — this single picture shows about one million stars — and the majority are normally hidden behind thick dust clouds and only become visible at infrared wavelengths.
For the final image, VISTA has stared far beyond our galaxy to take a family photograph of a cluster of galaxies in the constellation of Fornax (the Chemical Furnace). The wide field allows many galaxies to be captured in a single image including the striking barred-spiral NGC 1365 and the big elliptical galaxy NGC 1399.
VISTA will spend almost all of its time mapping the southern sky in a systematic fashion. The telescope is embarking on six major sky surveys with different scientific goals over its first five years. One survey will cover the entire southern sky and others will be dedicated to smaller regions to be studied in greater detail. VISTA’s surveys will help our understanding of the nature, distribution and origin of known types of stars and galaxies, map the three-dimensional structure of our galaxy and the neighbouring Magellanic Clouds, and help determine the relation between the structure of the Universe and the mysterious dark energy and dark matter.
The huge data volumes — typically 300 gigabytes per night or more than 100 terabytes per year — will flow back into the ESO digital archive and will be processed into images and catalogues at data centres in the United Kingdom at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh. All data will become public and be available to astronomers around the globe.
Jim Emerson of Queen Mary, University of London and leader of the VISTA consortium, is looking forward to a rich harvest of science from the new telescope: “History has shown us some of the most exciting results that come out of projects like VISTA are the ones you least expect — and I’m personally very excited to see what these will be!”
 The VISTA Consortium is led by Queen Mary, University of London and consists of: Queen Mary, University of London; Queen’s University of Belfast; University of Birmingham; University of Cambridge; Cardiff University; University of Central Lancashire; University of Durham; The University of Edinburgh; University of Hertfordshire; Keele University; Leicester University; Liverpool John Moores University; University of Nottingham; University of Oxford; University of St Andrews; University of Southampton; University of Sussex and University College London.
From the above references:
The magnificent reflection nebula NGC 2023 lies nearly 1500 light-years from Earth. It is located within the constellation of Orion (The Hunter), in a prestigious area of the sky close to the well-known Flame and Horsehead Nebulae. The entire structure of NGC 2023 is vast, at four light-years across. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope picture just takes in the southern part, with the subtle shades of colour closely resembling those of a sunset on Earth.
NGC 2023 surrounds a massive young B-type star. These stars are large, bright and blue-white in colour, and have a high surface temperature, being several times hotter than the Sun. The energy emitted from NGC2023’s B-type star illuminates the nebula, resulting in its high surface brightness: good news for astronomers who wish to study it. The star itself lies outside the field of view, at the upper left, and its brilliant light is scattered by Hubble’s optical system, creating the bright flare across the left side of the picture, which is not a real feature of the nebula.
Stars are forming from the material comprising NGC 2023. This Hubble image captures the billowing waves of gas, 5000 times denser than the interstellar medium. The unusual greenish clumps are thought to be Herbig–Haro objects. These peculiar features of star-forming regions are created when gas ejected at hundreds of kilometres per second from newly formed stars impacts the surrounding material. These shockwaves cause the gas to glow and result in the strange shapes seen here. Herbig–Haro objects typically only last for a few thousand years, which is the blink of eye in astronomical terms.
This picture was created from multiple images taken with the Wide Field Camera of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys [ACS].
Exposures through a blue filter (F475W) are coloured blue, exposures through a yellow filter (F625W) are coloured green and images through a near-infrared filter (F850LP) are shown as red. The total exposure times per filter are 800 s, 800 s and 1200 s, respectively, and the field of view spans 3.2 arcminutes.
Date 25 July 2011
It is also the site of star formation and one very bright young star has created a cavity in the surrounding cloud. Fierce ultraviolet radiation from the young star is causing the gas to fluoresce and the nearby dust is reflecting the intense bluish starlight. VISTA’s infrared vision reveals its wispy gas clouds in exquisite clarity. The field of view of this extract is about eight
See the full article here .
Stem Education Coalition
Visit ESO in Social Media-
ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.