You know it's going to be a good night when a telescope fires a laser guide star straight into the heart of the Milky Way.

Telescopes like the Yepun Telescope use lasers to create artificial stars in order to guide their adaptive optics to compensate for atmospheric motion. This allows ground-based telescopes to compete with space-based telescopes despite contending with a thick layer of distorting gas instead of the crisp clarity of a vacuum.

Yepun is one of four 8.2-metre telescope in the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope array in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. They work in conjunction with another four 1.8-metre movable Auxiliary Telescopes.

Image credit: G. Hüdepohl/ESO