VST image of the star-forming region Messier 17
VST image of the giant globular cluster Omega Centauri
The VLT Survey Telescope: the largest telescope in the world designed
for visible light sky surveys
OmegaCAM, the monster camera of the VLT Survey Telescope
Highlights from the VST image of Messier 17
Highlights from the VST image of Omega Centauri
The star-forming region Messier 17 in the constellation of Sagittarius
The globular star cluster Omega Centauri in the constellation of Centaurus
Comparison of the field of view of VST/OmegaCAM and other telescopes
The detectors of OmegaCAM
The VLT Survey Telescope observing on a moonlit night
The VLT Survey Telescope observing on a moonlit night
PR Video eso1119a
ESOcast 30: First Images from the VLT Survey Telescope -- VST and 268 megapixel OmegaCAM start work
PR Video eso1119b
Video News Release 33: First Images from the
VLT Survey Telescope – VST and 268 megapixel OmegaCAM start work (eso1119b)
PR Video eso1119c
Zooming in on the star-forming region Messier 17
PR Video eso1119d
Zooming in on the globular cluster Omega Centauri
PR Video eso1119e
Panning across the VST image of the star-forming region Messier 17
PR Video eso1119f
Panning across the VST image of the globular cluster Omega Centauri
PR Video eso1119g - PR Video eso1119h
A New Telescope and Camera
The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) is the latest telescope to be added to ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. It is housed in an enclosure immediately adjacent to the four VLT Unit Telescopes on the summit of Cerro Paranal under the pristine skies of one of the best observing sites on Earth. The VST is a wide-field survey telescope with a field of view twice as broad as the full Moon. It is the largest telescope in the world designed to exclusively survey the sky in visible light. Over the next few years the VST and its camera OmegaCAM will make several very detailed surveys of the southern sky. All survey data will be made public.
“I am very pleased to see the impressive first images from the VST and OmegaCAM. The unique combination of the VST and the VISTA infrared survey telescope will allow many interesting objects to be identified for more detailed follow-up observations with the powerful telescopes of the VLT,” says Tim de Zeeuw, the ESO Director General.
“The VST project has overcome many difficulties but it is now repaying, with its excellent image quality, the expectations of the astronomical community and the efforts of the many people at INAF involved in its construction. I am very pleased to see the VST in operation,” adds Tommaso Maccacaro, the President of the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).
The VST programme is a joint venture between the INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy  and ESO. INAF has designed and built the telescope with the collaboration of leading Italian industries and ESO is responsible for the enclosure and the civil engineering works at the site. OmegaCAM, the VST’s camera, was designed and built by a consortium including institutes in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy  with major contributions from ESO. The new facility will be operated by ESO, which will also archive and distribute data from the telescope.
The VST is a state-of-the-art 2.6-metre aperture telescope with an active optics system to keep the mirrors perfectly positioned at all times. At its core, behind large lenses that ensure the best possible image quality , lies the 770 kg OmegaCAM camera, built around 32 CCD detectors , sealed in vacuum, that together create 268-megapixel images .
The First Images
Both the telescope and the camera have been designed to fully exploit the high quality skies at Paranal.
“The superb images now coming from VST and OmegaCAM are a tribute to the hard work of many groups around Europe over many years. We are now looking forward to a rich harvest of science and unexpected discoveries from the VST surveys,” adds Massimo Capaccioli, principal investigator of the VST project.
The first released image shows the spectacular star-forming region Messier 17, also known as the Omega Nebula or the Swan Nebula, as it has never been seen before. This dramatic region of gas, dust and hot young stars lies in the heart of the Milky Way in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). The VST field of view is so large that the entire nebula, including its fainter outer parts, is captured — and retains its superb sharpness across the entire image.
The second released image may be the best portrait of the globular star cluster Omega Centauri ever made. This is the largest globular cluster in the sky, but the very wide field of view of VST and OmegaCAM can encompass even the faint outer regions of this spectacular object. This view, which includes about 300 000 stars, demonstrates the excellent resolution of VST.
The VST will make three public surveys over the next five years . The KIDS survey will image several regions of the sky away from the Milky Way. It will further the study of dark matter, dark energy and galaxy evolution, and find many new galaxy clusters and high-redshift quasars. The VST ATLAS survey will cover a larger area of sky and focus on understanding dark energy and supporting more detailed studies using the VLT and other telescopes. The third survey, VPHAS+, will image the central plane of the Milky Way to map the structure of the Galactic disc and its star formation history. VPHAS+ will yield a catalogue of around 500 million objects and will discover many new examples of unusual stars at all stages of their evolution.
The data volume produced by OmegaCAM will be large. About 30 terabytes of raw data will be produced per year and will flow back into data centres in Europe for processing . A novel and sophisticated software system has been developed at Groningen and Naples to handle the very large data flow. The end products from the processing will be huge lists of the objects found, as well as images, and these will be made available to astronomers worldwide for scientific analysis.
 The OmegaCAM consortium is comprised of institutes in the Netherlands (NOVA, in particular the Kapteyn Institute / OmegaCEN Groningen and Leiden Observatory), Germany (in particular the university observatories of Munich, Göttingen and Bonn) and Italy (INAF, in particular the Padua and Naples Observatories). The ESO Optical Detector Team provides the detector system. OmegaCAM is headed by PI K. Kuijken (Groningen and Leiden University) and co-PI’s R. Bender (Munich USM/MPE) and E. Cappellaro (INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova), project management is done by B. Muschielok and R. Häfner (University Observatory of the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich) and the data handling system, Astro-WISE, is developed by OmegaCEN-NOVA led by E.A. Valentijn (Groningen).
 The telescope optics also include correction for dispersion by the Earth’s atmosphere.
 The camera also contains extra CCDs, which work with the telescope’s systems to help control the guiding and active optics systems.
 To measure the colours of objects in the sky, different very large glass filters can be slid automatically in front of the detectors. Each filter is over 30 cm on a side and most have special coatings that ensure that very little light is lost. There is also a very large shutter consisting of two blades that can be used to block the light while the detectors are read out.
 The VST/OmegaCAM surveys will make use of a new, dedicated fast intercontinental data link between Paranal and Europe that was established with support from the European Union (eso1043).
Photos of the VST
Link to the ESO VST public web pages
Press release from the Georg-August Universität Göttingen
Prof. Massimo Capaccioli
Prof. Koen Kuijken
Prof. Edwin A. Valentijn
Prof. Ralf Bender