For 50 years, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has called the sands of Chile’s Atacama Desert home, thanks to what is generally regarded as the clearest skies on Earth.
To celebrate their half-century of astronomical research, the ESO has launched two fun contests: one that lets you choose which celestial body their Very Large Telescope (VLT) will observe, and the other, a chance to come to Chile to help with the VLT observations yourself.
The ESO formed in 1962 to give European astronomers access to the incredibly rich skies of the southern hemisphere. The organization currently operates three unique world-class observing sites in the Atacama Desert of Chile: La Silla, Chajnantor, and Paranal.
Paranal is home to the Very Large Telescope – currently the largest optical telescope in the world – which has been responsible for incredible photos of distant galaxies, star nurseries, and much more.
Normally the use of the VLT is reserved for world-class astronomers through a lengthy application process. But for the first time ever, ESO is opening its precious hardware to the general public.
How to enter
To help decide where the VLT will cast its gaze head to the contest page, “Chose what the VLT Observes” and vote for your choice. The image that gets the most votes will be observed using the VLT on October 5.
The second contest, “Tweet your Way to the VLT!” offers the chance to fly to the VLT in the Chilean Atacama Desert, visit the Paranal Observatory, and participate in the anniversary observations with all flights, accommodation and necessary expenses covered.
To enter, send @ESO a tweet explaining why you should be the lucky winner. The recommended format is “I’d visit @ESO because,” and you can submit as many unique tweets as you’d like.
Even if you don’t win ESO’s trip to the Atacama, plenty of events are taking place around the world to celebrate ESO’s 50th anniversary. A full list of activities can be found here.