ESO Timeline

This timeline shows highlights and important events in the history of ESO. One of ESO’s original aims was to allow the Member States to work together to build and operate advanced astronomical facilities that were beyond the capabilities of any individual country. In particular, it would allow European astronomers to access the parts of the sky best visible from the southern hemisphere, such as the centre of the Milky Way, or our neighbouring galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds.

An excerpt from the preamble to the ESO Convention of 1962 reads "The Governments of the States parties to this convention [...] desirous of jointly creating an observatory equipped with powerful instruments in the Southern Hemisphere and accordingly promoting and organising co-operation in astronomical research [...]". 

  1. 21 June 1953 — A shared European Observatory is discussed for the first time by a group of astronomers at Leiden, the Netherlands. Immediately thereafter, the subject was further discussed, also in the Netherlands, at the Groningen conference.
  2. 26 January 1954 — ESO declaration by leading astronomers from six European countries expressing the wish that a joint European observatory be established in the southern hemisphere.
  3. December 1955 — Site testing begins in South Africa and later in South America, to identify the best location for the ESO observatory.