ESO Celebrates 50 Years Of Relationship With Chile
November 11, 2013

ESO Celebrates 50th Anniversary Of Collaboration With Chile


Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of a very fruitful relationship between ESO and Chile that has allowed both European and Chilean astronomy to push the boundaries of science, technology and culture forward into the future.

On 6 November 1963, the initial agreement between the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Government of Chile, the Convenio, was signed, enabling ESO to place its telescopes beneath the exceptionally clear Chilean skies.

"The cooperation with Chile has proved to be solid and long-lasting. ESO is a scientific and cultural bridge between Chile and Europe; it opens a way into the future and provides great benefits for Chile, the ESO Member States and certainly for science and technology in general," says Tim de Zeeuw, the ESO Director General.

The first ESO telescope, with a 1-metre diameter mirror, was installed in 1966 and the La Silla Observatory, the first ESO observatory, was inaugurated on 25 March 1969 by the President of Chile. Over time, the 3.6-metre telescope and the New Technology Telescope (NTT), along with several other smaller telescopes, were constructed at this excellent site. These technological developments paved the way for what would become the next ESO facility in Chile, the Paranal Observatory.

The Paranal Observatory was inaugurated on 5 March 1999 and is home to the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the world’s most advanced optical/infrared observatory and where some of the world’s most important astronomical achievements have been obtained. It is also the site for two of the world’s most powerful survey telescopes, VISTA and the VST.

Recently, together with partners from North America and East Asia, in collaboration with Chile, ESO has constructed the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the largest astronomical project in the world. Located on the Chajnantor Plateau, ALMA consists of 66 millimetre/submillimetre antennas and was inaugurated by the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, on 13 March 2013.

"ESO has become an active agent for the education of new generations of scientists in Chile and Europe. This has provided us with the opportunity to create stronger ties and build links between our communities. The various committees of collaboration that exist between ESO and Chile are clear examples of that. Not only at the scientific level, but also culturally and educationally," says Fernando Comerón, ESO Representative in Chile.

As the host country, Chile benefits from preferential access to observing time on ESO’s telescopes, enabling Chilean astronomers to access some of the world’s most advanced observing facilities.

In the future, ESO and Chile will continue to strengthen their relationship. A week ago, President Piñera handed over the legal documents by which the land around Cerro Armazones is transferred to ESO (see eso1345). Cerro Armazones will host the next ESO project, the European Extremely Large Telescope, "the world’s biggest eye on the sky".

ESO, together with the embassies of its Member States, has planned a series of cultural events to celebrate this anniversary with the Chilean public. Further information is available here.

Furthermore, a special reception will be hosted by ESO on 8 November 2013. Several Chilean authorities, ambassadors and representatives of the Member States and the scientific community present in the country have been invited to commemorate this date.


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