VISTA is a 4 m diameter wide field survey telescope with interchangeable infrared and (subject to availability of funding) visible cameras, which are being built for the delivery by late 2006 (actual "delivery" August 2008).
Its purpose is to rapidly survey large areas of the southern sky both to extract science directly from the surveys themselves and to find samples of rare objects for further detailed study with larger telescopes.
VISTA will be constructed at an altitude of 2520 m on the 'NTT peak' at the European Southern Observatory's Cerro Paranal Observatory in Chile. The infrared camera will contain sixteen detectors each with 2048x2048 pixels of pixel size 0.34" and will cover 0.6 square degrees of sky at any instant.
STFC is responsible for organising the design, construction and commissioning of the VISTA telescope, IR camera, enclosure and all associated items, through its UK Astronomy Technology Centre at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, which acts as the VISTA Project Office (VPO).
Following commissioning, ESO will operate VISTA as an ESO facility for conducting surveys from 2007 (now 2009).