Comets and Shooting Stars Dance Over Paranal : 2013

Photograph by

Gabriel Brammer

About this image

Two comets and a meteor seen at sunset over the Paranal Observatory in Chile. Close to the horizon at right is Comet C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS), its tail of dust reflecting sunlight. Near the centre of the image just above the mountain slope is the fuzzy Comet C/2012 F6 (Lemmon), the ionised gas in its coma glowing with a greenish hue. The brightish streak lying between the two comets is a meteor, or falling star, that happened to collide with our atmosphere at just the right time. The larger fuzzy patch at top left is the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a dwarf galaxy that orbits the Milky Way. The mountain seen here is Cerro Paranal, home to the Very Large Telescope (VLT), comprising four telescopes each of 8.2 metres diameter and operated by the European Southern Observatory. This image was captured on a Nikon D600 camera and 24-70mm lens with an exposure time of 69 seconds at ISO2000. The camera was mounted on an Astrotrac mount to prevent blurring of the star images. ESO Photo Ambassador, European Southern Observatory, Garching, Germany