eso1146 — Organisation Release

Spanish Crown Prince visits ESO's Paranal Observatory

24 November 2011

On 24 November 2011 ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile was honoured by a visit from Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Asturias.

The delegation, which also included the Spanish Minister of Science and Innovation, Dr. Cristina Garmendia, the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfredo Moreno, and the Chilean Minister of National Assets, Catalina Parot, first had the opportunity to hear a series of presentations about ESO at the Paranal Residencia. This session was also attended by members of the international press.

The ESO Director General, Prof. Tim de Zeeuw, highlighted the challenges of building and operating state-of-the-art astronomical research facilities in one of the driest places on Earth.

It is a great pleasure to welcome Their Royal Highnesses to the Paranal Observatory”, said Prof. de Zeeuw, “Spain is a highly valued ESO Member State. Spanish industry has made major contributions to the design and construction of ESO facilities, and Spanish astronomers are making impressive use of these world-leading scientific tools.

The Spanish delegate and vice president of the ESO Council, Prof. Xavier Barcons, further emphasised the strong involvement of the Spanish community in ESO activities. Spain has taken a significant role in the design studies for the forthcoming E-ELT and has also been awarded large contracts to build parts of ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.

The Spanish astronomer and ESO Deputy Director of Operations, Dr. Fernando Comerón, described some of the most important discoveries made with the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), including the first direct image of an exoplanet ever made and the confirmation of the existence of a supermassive black hole in the centre of the Milky Way.

The Prince and Princess were then shown around the VLT itself, the world’s most advanced optical instrument. They also got a rare chance to visit the interferometric tunnels underneath the telescopes. In these tunnels, the light beams gathered by the VLT Unit Telescopes are combined, allowing astronomers to see details up to 17 times finer than is possible with the individual telescopes.

The distinguished visitors were also shown the VLT control room, where ESO Spanish astronomers explained the operation of the telescopes.

The visit of the Prince and Princess of Asturias was also hosted by the ESO Representative in Chile, Prof. Massimo Tarenghi and the director of the observatory Dr Andreas Kaufer.

Spain joined ESO in 2006 and there are currently 32 Spanish nationals employed by the organisation.

More information

ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning a 40-metre-class European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

Links

Contacts

Massimo Tarenghi
ESO Representative in Chile
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56 2 463 3143
Email: mtarengh@eso.org

Gonzalo Argandoña
ESO education and Public Outreach Department
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56 2 463 3258
Cell: +56 9 9 829 4202
Email: gargando@eso.org

Douglas Pierce-Price
ESO education and Public Outreach Department
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6759
Email: dpiercep@eso.org

About the Release

Release No.:eso1146
Name:Paranal, Very Large Telescope
Type:• X - People and Events
• X - Paranal
• X - Chile

Images

The Prince and Princess of Asturias during their visit to ESO's Paranal Observatory
The Prince and Princess of Asturias during their visit to ESO's Paranal Observatory
The Prince and Princess of Asturias during their visit to ESO's Paranal Observatory
The Prince and Princess of Asturias during their visit to ESO's Paranal Observatory
The Prince of Asturias during his visit to ESO's Paranal Observatory
The Prince of Asturias during his visit to ESO's Paranal Observatory
The Prince of Asturias during his visit to ESO's Paranal Observatory
The Prince of Asturias during his visit to ESO's Paranal Observatory
The Prince and Princess of Asturias during their visit to ESO's Paranal Observatory
The Prince and Princess of Asturias during their visit to ESO's Paranal Observatory

Videos

The visit of the Prince and Princess of Asturias to ESO's Paranal Observatory
The visit of the Prince and Princess of Asturias to ESO's Paranal Observatory

Also see our