ESO Search for Potential Astronomical Sites (ESPAS-2000)
Working Group Terms of Reference


The site survey for the VLT ended in 1990 with the choice of Cerro Paranal based on the conclusions of the VLT Site Selection Working Group (VLT Report 62, Nov. 90, Ed. M. Sarazin). ESO initiated a site survey of the Namibian site of Gamsberg in 1994 as a preventive action during the conflict about the ownership of the land around the VLT site of Paranal in Chile.
The creation of a first Working Group on Alternative Sites was decided by ESO Council during its April 19, 1995 meeting, with the task of proposing alternatives for the possible placement of one VLT telescope or the entire VLT/VLTI (ESO/Cou-549). The working group named ESPAS-1995 met once in Spring 1996 and produced a list of sites, along with a recommendation to further investigate the potentialities of Mt. Maidanak in Uzbekistan.
From 1997 to 1999, ESO and Tashkent Observatory, associated to Moscow Sternberg Institute and Nice University, conducted a 2 years long site survey with funds from the European program INTAS, which resulted in a full characterization of Maidanak with the same instrumentation as previously used in Chile.
In 1998, ESO has started a Concept Study for the next generation of ground-based Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs). This became the Overwhelmingly Large Telescope (OWL) project which obtained support from the ESO Scientific and Technical Committee (STC). In a high level meeting in March 2000, ESO and AURA (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., USA) agreed to establish a close "informal" collaboration on ELT studies, in the form of 6 joint AURA-ESO Working Groups (WGs). ESPAS-2000 is the ESO side of ELT-WG6 (site characterization).

ESPAS-2000 Terms of Reference

Site characterization for Extremely Large Telescopes (ELT)

June 5, 2000