Gang of four: Debut of a big telescope

In the desert of northern Chile, a new telescope has opened for business, completing a quartet of instruments collectively known as the Very Large Telescope. Each instrument gathers light with an

Image of the planetary nebula Hen 2-428 taken with the newest member of the Very Large Telescope quartet. Planetary nebulas are the outer layers of gas cast off by dying, sunlike stars. European Southern Observatory

8.2-meter mirror and is designed to work both independently and as part of a single, giant telescope.

The fourth and final detector took its first official images on Sept. 3 at Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert. Next year, researchers will begin using some of the four 8.2-m telescopes in concert, combining the light they collect. The resulting image, they predict, will give a startlingly clear view of the heavens–one never before possible with visible light.

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