Since the dawn of humankind, we've looked up to the sky and pondered the awe-inspiring mysteries of the universe.
At first, we explained our rudimentary observations of the heavens with myth and superstition. Then, as we became a society driven by science, we learned that the cosmos couldn't be explained by stories; observation and theory brought the realization that we occupy a planet, orbiting some star - of countless billions others - in a spiral galaxy in a not-so-special region of a vast expanse we now know as a 14 billion-year-old universe.
PHOTOS: Very Large Telescope Fires-Up Awesome Laser System
Though we are only just beginning our epic quest to understand the true nature of space, time, energy and matter, humanity has come a long way since the invention of the telescope and the fundamental realization that gravity dictates the motion of the planets as much as it dictates the fate of the universe. We now have powerful particle colliders that are pulling at the fundamental threads of the structure of matter and spacetime. And we've given our planet "eyes" to see some of the most distant (and therefore, most ancient) structures in the universe.
A consequence of being what we would consider to be an intelligent (and somewhat technologically proficient) life form, despite our terrible flaws, we've evolved with the profound ability to not only consider the nature of our universe, but also gone full circle to question our place in it. We are in a golden age of science and at the extreme edge of astronomical discovery are the robotic eyes we now have to see deeper than ever into the cosmic abyss.
PHOTOS: ALMA: New Jewel of the Atacama Desert
Some of our planet's most powerful eyes are located in Chile, where a group of powerful observatories are constantly at work. Managed by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), a collaboration of 16 member states and based out of Germany, the ESO sites in Chile include Paranal Observatory (home to the The Very Large Telescope) and La Silla Observatory. The ESO is also a partner in the the awesome Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) that was inaugurated in 2013. ALMA is the biggest and most powerful observatory on the planet.