The European Southern Observatory (ESO) released on June 9 2011 the first two images captured by its new VLT Survey Telescope (VST), the largest telescope in the world designed to exclusively survey the sky in visible light.
The VST is a state-of-the-art, 2.6-metre telescope, with a huge 268-megapixel camera, the OmegaCAM, and is designed to map the sky quickly, with very fine image quality. This telescope is the latest addition to ESO's Paranal Observatory, located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.
Sealed together in a vacuum are 32 CCD sensors, which are stitched together to make the 268-megapixel images. The whole camera rig weighs 770kg (1700 Ib) — not something you can slap on a tripod and take out into a field.
The VST is set to take three major surveys of the southern skies over the next five years, producing 30 terabytes of raw data per annum. The planned survey will help us understand dark matter, dark energy, the formation of stellar bodies as well as document hundreds of millions of objects in space.