Light and Magic

On a clear night—with this telescope—you can see forever.

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Barthel also devoted eight minutes of observing time to imaging the well-known, and significantly closer, Sombrero galaxy, M104. He is completing a study on black holes in the center of similar galaxies, and felt the VLT would help. It did-and it made for an impressive picture (one that the ESO made into a poster). "The raw Sombrero data were of sheer beauty," Barthel recalls. "We were making live pictures of a beautiful piece of nature."

Sunrise at Paranal brings a temporary halt to the exploration-and these days a continuation of construction, as there is still much work to be done on the telescopes, the interferometry tunnels, and the new dormitory building below. After coming off the mountain and grabbing a bite to eat in the cafeteria, astronomers usually head for their rooms, which are all clustered in a corner of the container camp and marked with signs reading "Silence: Astronomers Sleeping." For them, this lonely place, bathed in light from suns both near and far, is paradise.

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