lunar image of the month

december: moon with sun, venus & southern cross

It sounds like a very improbable astronomical conjunction, particularly given that the picture was taken in broad daylight. In fact it shows (from left to right) Antu, Kueyen, Melipal and Yepun, the four mighty telescopes of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) facility, high on Cerro Paranal in Chile. The names, in the native Mapuche language, translate as Sun, Moon, Southern Cross and Venus.

During the last year the telescope, which have 8m diameter mirrors and adaptive optics - computer-driven motors which flex the mirror in real time to eliminate atmospheric turbulence - have been used to take some astonishing images of our Moon and the moons of Uranus.

Image: European Southern Observatory.