A tour of the night sky

Another night, another brilliant view of the sky above northern Chile – specifically above the four Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the ESO’s Paranal Observatory.

Here’s the ESO’s description of what’s to be seen.

The Milky Way appears to soar directly up from one of the Unit Telescopes, bounded on either side by a spectacular array of stars — including Sirius, which dazzles at the top of the image. 

Part of Canis Major (The Greater Dog), Sirius is the brightest star in the sky and is actually a binary system, consisting of a main-sequence star (Sirius A, a star in stable “adulthood” that is burning nuclear fuel) and a white dwarf (Sirius B, the dense corpse of a star that ran out of fuel long ago).

Wander down the edge of the Milky Way, and you might spy a small group of bright stars to the left. This is Orion’s belt, an eye-catching asterism composed of three stars lying in a straight line. 

A red giant star named Betelgeuse lies to the right of the belt, and the pinkish glow of the Orion Nebula can be seen to the left. These objects form part of the constellation of Orion, named for the mighty hunter from Ancient Greek mythology.

Further down, past the face of Taurus the Bull and just above a small open dome gazing eagerly at the night sky (a VLT Auxiliary Telescope), a tightly clustered group of stars hangs above the bright horizon. This is the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, an open star cluster dominated by hot, blue B-type stars — and one of the nearest clusters to Earth.

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