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At the Paranal Observatory in the middle of the Atacama Desert, the main attraction for visitors is the Very Large Telescope (VLT). It’s considered one of the world’s most advanced optical instruments, with main mirrors that extend a whopping 8.2 meters in diameter. Inside the control room, a unique collection of scientific equipment and instruments are on display. However, perhaps the most interesting structure on the property is the Paranal Residencia used by employees. The building looks like it’s straight out of a sci-fi film, or maybe a James Bond film is more fitting. The Residencia was once used as a classic Bond villain hideout, and a pair of giant fake rocks not far from the property harkens back to its time on the big screen.
These two innocuous looking rocks were once props for the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace. Certain segments of the movie were shot near the VLT site because of its remote location. In the film, the rocks were used as a prop for Bond and his companion to hide behind while slowly approaching the residencia, known as the Eco-hotel in the movie. Inside resided the film’s villain, Mr. Greene.
While other large rocks were present at the location, the producers decided against using real boulders and had fake rocks flown in. These rocks looked so realistic that the European Southern Observatory held a competition to see who could spot the movie props from the real rocks.
Know Before You Go
The rocks are right next to the Paranal Residencia of VLT. If you are an astronomer staying there it's easy to get to them. As a regular tourist, you can walk right past them during the weekly Saturday tour.