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Portuguese astrophotographer brings back stunning pictures from the European Southern observatory

Miguel Claro, a member of the international organisation TWAN – The World at Night, and the official astrophotographer of the Reserva Dark Sky Alqueva – the first nature reserve to be certified as a Starlight Tourist Destination in the world, has just returned from a seven-day expedition to the ESO observatories in Chile. He “carries” with him over 40 gigabytes of breath-taking images, of the observatories and of the sky over the Chajnantor plateau, high in the Chilean Andes.

This expedition was the first official Portuguese photography expedition to ESO, and was supported by FCT (the funding agency set up the necessary contacts) and the Portuguese delegation to the ESO Council. Miguel was accompanied by Apolónia Rodriges, coordinator of the project. Together, they visited the ALMA Observatory (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array), at 5 000m altitude on the Chajnantor plateau, about 50km east of San Pedro de Atacama, and the Paranal Observatory, at 2 600m altitude, where the Very Large Telescope (VLT), ESO’s current flagship infrastructure, is installed.


ESO was established in 1962, with the goal of promoting European cooperation in astronomy in order to allow the design, construction and operation of the most powerful ground-based telescopes. ESO is today considered the most productive observatory in the world. It is funded by its member states, including Portugal – a fully-fledged member state since December 2000.

TWAN – The World at Night is an international project to capture and release beautiful images and timelapse videos of some of the world’s most important landmarks, with the night sky as background. TWAN links art, science and culture. Miguel Claro is the Portuguese representative in the project.

The Reserva Dark Sky® Alqueva is a nature reserve covering 3 000m2, in the south of Portugal, around the Alqueva dam. In 2011 it became the first nature reserve in the world to be certified as a “Starlight Tourist Destination”, by the Starlight Foundation (whish is supported by UNESCO and the UN World Tourism Organisation), due to the unique features of its night sky, which is ideal for amateur and professional star-gazing. Reserva Dark Sky Alqueva encompasses several towns, namely Portel, reguengos de Monsaraz, Alandroal, Mourão, Moura and Barrancos.

For more of Miguel Branco’s images, visit the Portuguese ESO website.

(Image credit: Miguel Claro/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))