La Silla Observatory

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Coordinates: 29 ° 15 ′ 23 "  S , 70 ° 44 ′ 17"  W

La Silla Observatory
Four telescopes on La Silla, from front to back: 2.2 m Schmidt; NTT, 3.6 m

The La Silla Observatory , located about 600 kilometers north of Santiago de Chile on the 2400 m high mountain La Silla in the municipality of La Higuera , was the first observatory of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile , to which another observatory has since opened the Cerro Paranal has been added. The asteroid (2187) La Silla was named after the mountain.


Even before ESO was officially founded in 1962, the search for a promising location for an astronomical observatory in the southern hemisphere began. After an initial search in South West Africa (now Namibia ), political pressure soon turned interest in more favorable locations near the coast of northern Chile. Finally, the decision was made in favor of the Cinchado , about 160 km north of La Serena , also known as La Silla (Spanish for the saddle) because of its shape, as the location of the ESO observatory. In 1969 the observatory on La Silla was opened.


La Silla is home to many telescopes, some of which were and are operated by ESO itself and some by other institutes and universities. Many smaller telescopes have since been shut down, but La Silla plays even in the age of the Very Large Telescope of the Paranal Observatory nor the ESO an important role.

Active telescopes on La Silla
telescope diameter Art Remarks
ESO 3.6 m 3.6 m optical / infrared ESO, since 1976 ( equipped with HARPS since 2003 )
New Technology Telescope NTT 3.5 m optical / infrared ESO, since 1989
MPG / ESO 2.2 m 2.2 m optical / infrared On loan from the MPG since 1984
Danish 1.5 m 1.5 m Denmark, 1979
Leonhard Euler Telescope 1.2 m Search for exoplanets Switzerland, since 1998
Schmidt telescope 1 m ESO, 1971, rebuilt in 2009
DENIS 1 m especially for sky surveys in the infrared France
MASCARA Multi-site All-Sky CAmeRA 5 cameras with 24 mm focal length Complete sky coverage with wide-angle shots at a short distance since 2017
BlackGEM 3 × 0.65 m Array of three telescopes, expandable to 15 telescopes under construction, planned from 2018
Extra 3 × 0.6 m since 2017
Former or deactivated telescopes on La Silla
telescope diameter Art Remarks
ESO 1.52 m 1.52 m ESO, out of service since 2002
Coudé Auxiliary Telescope CAT 1.4 m Auxiliary telescope for the Coudé spectrograph of the ESO 3.6 m ESO, at Lund Observatory since 2006
ESO 1 m 1 m especially for photometry ESO, rededicated to DENIS
MarLy 1m 1 m EROS project France, out of service
Dutch 90 cm 0.9 m Netherlands, 1979, out of service
Swiss T70 0.7 m out of service since Euler 1998
Bochum telescope 0.61 m Univ. Bochum, 1968, out of order
ESO 50 cm 0.5 m ESO, 1971, out of order
Danish 50 cm 0.5 m Denmark, 1971, out of service
Grand Prism Objectif GPO 0.4 (prism) ESO, 1968, out of order
Marseille 40 cm 0.4 m France, out of service
Swedish ESO Submillimeter Telescope SEST 15 m Submillimeter / millimeter parabolic antenna Sweden, ESO, 1987, out of service


A 360 ° panorama of La Silla

See also


  • Hoimar von Ditfurth (Photos: John Launois): "Astronomy: The research monastery La Silla." In: Geo-Magazin. Hamburg 1979, 7, pp. 42-62. Informative experience report: “Hoimar v. Ditfurth visited European astronomers who live like monks high in the Andes. ”The author met u. a. together with Hans-Emil Schuster . ISSN  0342-8311

Web links

Commons : La Silla Observatory  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Star gazing in Namibia. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  2. HARPS: The Planet Hunter
  3. ESO: The ESO 1.52m Telescope