The UK ATC was responsible for the design and construction of VISTA that is part of the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Cerro Paranal Observatory at an altitude of 2635m, in the Atacama Desert in Chile.
With a 4.1m mirror VISTA was the world's largest dedicated infrared survey telescope. By observing at wavelengths longer than those visible to the human eye, VISTA has the capability to study objects that would otherwise remain nearly invisible in visible light due to their low temperatures, dust clouds, or the gravitational redshift effect, which elongates their light's journey into the redder end of the spectrum as it travels through space.
Delivery of VISTA was also a major part of the UK becoming a member of ESO.
VISTA supported a huge variety of projects including: measuring the Galaxy's population of brown dwarf stars; testing rival hypotheses for the nature of dark matter in the Galaxy; testing models of quasar variability; measuring the rate of growth of galaxy clustering over the history of the universe - a key prediction of cosmological theories.
In 2023 the orginal infrared camera was removed and
retired, and the remaining telescope and mirror components repurposed and adapted
to host the 4MOST spectrograph.
Find out more about VISTA.