Director General

Prof. Xavier Barcons

Xavier Barcons

Xavier Barcons, ESO Director General since 1 September 2017, was born in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Catalonia, Spain in 1959.

He received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in physical sciences from the University of Barcelona in 1981. He was awarded a PhD in statistical physics in 1985 from the University of Cantabria, Spain.

Barcons began his academic career at the University of Cantabria first as a teaching assistant and then as a lecturer until he took up the role of Senior Research Scientist at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) in 1993. In parallel (1986–87), he moved to Cambridge University in the UK as a postdoctoral fellow, and then returned there as a sabbatical visitor in 1997. He was promoted to CSIC Research Professor in 2002.

Barcons’ research has been focused on astronomy at X-ray wavelengths and, until the late 1990s, Quasi-Stellar Object absorption lines and the intergalactic medium. He has both participated in and led a number of research projects, some of which have provided the backbone for XMM-Newton surveys. His interests have unveiled obscured Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) in the distant Universe, the evolution of the AGN population and the apparent mismatch between the X-ray and optical views of AGN.

In the late 1980s, he started the first X-ray astronomy group in Spain, which has been a partner in many international collaborations and consortia. His group is now engaged in, and even leading, various programmes that have obtained large amounts of observing time with a number of observing facilities (ESO, Gran Telescopio Canarias, XMM-Newton, Spitzer, WISE, ALMA) to better understand the nature of AGN and their relationship with galaxy formation.

Much of Barcons’ efforts have been directed towards pursuing large projects, beginning as a co-investigator with the XMM-Newton Survey Science Centre in 1996. He has actively pushed for large X-ray observatory missions including XEUS, IXO when it merged with NASA’s CON-X, and most recently, ESA’s Athena mission.

Before becoming ESO Director General, Barcons served with ESO in many different roles, including ESO Council President from 2012–2014. He has dedicated significant effort to help progress major ESO projects including the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which was approved during his mandate as ESO Council President.

Barcons has (co-)authored over 250 refereed papers in journals and conference proceedings. He has supervised the research of seven PhD students, given over 100 talks at international conferences and symposia, and chaired and served on the scientific organising committee of more than 50 international conferences.

Xavier Barcons is married and has two children.



A detailed CV is below.

Prof. Xavier Barcons Jauregui

Born in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Spain, in 1959; Spanish nationality.


Degree in Physical Sciences, University of Barcelona (1981)
Master in Physical Sciences, University of Barcelona (1981)
PhD in Science, section of Physics, University of Cantabria (1985)

Professional Activities

  • 1981–1987: Teaching Assistant, University of Cantabria, Cantabria, Spain
  • 1986–1987: Fleming Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, UK
  • 1987: Research Fellow of the Ministry of Education and Science, University of Cantabria
  • 1987–1993: Lecturer, University of Cantabria, Cantabria, Spain
  • 1993–2002: CSIC Senior Research Scientist,  Instituto de Física de Cantabria (CSIC-UC), Santander, Spain
  • 1996: Royal Society Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, UK
  • 1997: Sabbatical visitor at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, UK, 1997
  • 2002–present: CSIC Research Professor, Instituto de Física de Cantabria (CSIC-UC), Santander, Spain (on special leave since September 2017)
  • 2017–present: Director General of ESO

Research: Active galaxies and X-ray sky surveys, Transition Edge Sensor calorimeters for X-ray astronomy.

Publications: co-authored over 300 refereed papers in journals and conference proceedings.


At ESO — European Southern Observatory

  • Chair of the Observing Programmes Committee, 2016
  • Chair of the ALMA construction lessons learned panel, 2015
  • Member of the E-ELT Working Group, 2013–2014
  • President of ESO Council, 2012–2014
  • Member of the ALMA Personnel Committee, 2011-2014, and chair, 2012
  • Member of the ESO New Member States Working Group, 2011–2012
  • Vice-President of ESO Council, 2011
  • Member of the ALMA Board, 2008–2014
  • Member of the ALMA Budget Committee, 2008–2010
  • Member of the ESO Scientific Strategy Working Group, 2007–2008

At ESA — European Space Agency

  • Member of ESA’s Athena-L2 Science Study Team, 2014–2017
  • Member of the project selection panel FP7-SPACE, 2013
  • Member of ESA’s Athena-L1 Science Study Team, 2011–2012
  • Chair, Athena-L1 Science Definition Team, 2011–2012
  • Member of the selection jury of the Laboratoires d’Excellence (labex), ANR, France, 2011
  • Chair of the XMM-Newton Users Group, 2010-2014
  • Member of the Universe Sciences (PE9) panel of the ERC Advanced Research Grants, 2008, 2010, 2012
  • European co-chair, IXO Science Definition Team. 2008-2010
  • Member of the NASA/ESA/JAXA advisory committee leading to IXO –International X-ray Observatory, 2008
  • Member of the ESA XEUS Science Study Team, 2007–2008
  • Member of the ESA Space Science Advisory Committee, 2004–2006
  • Member of the ESA XEUS Science Advisory Group, 2002–2004
  • Member of the ESA Astronomy Working Group, 2002–2003
  • Member of the XMM-Newton Users Group, 2002–2003

Other Affiliations

  • Member of the IAU Special Nominating Committee, 2015–2017
  • Lead of the Athena Community Office, 2015–2017
  • Member of the X-IFU Consortium Management Team, 2014–2017
  • Chair of the X-IFU (X-ray Integral Field Unit) Science Advisory Team, 2014–2017
  • Member of the IAU Division D “High Energy Astrophysics” Steering Committee, 2013–2018
  • Head of the Galaxies and AGN research group at IFCA, 2012–2017
  • ESO Council delegate and coordinator of the Spanish delegation, 2007–2011
  • Member at large of the ASTRONET Roadmap Working Group, 2008-2009 and 2013–2014
  • Member of the Spanish National Astronomy Commission - CNA, 2008–2009
  • Founder and coordinator of RIA — Spanish Network of Astronomical Infrastructures, 2007–2010
  • Member of the Galaxies panel, ASTRONET Science Vision, 2006–2007
  • Member of the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) Oversight Committee, 2004–2006
  • Spanish co-chair of the Spain-ESO in-kind working group, 2004–2006
  • Manager of the National Astronomy & Astrophysics Programme, 2004–2006
  • Member of the Spain–ESO negotiating team, 2004–2006
  • Founding Director of IFCA — Instituto de Física de Cantabria (CSIC-UC), 1995–1999
  • Founding member of the Spanish Astronomical Society, and member of its Board, 1992–1996
  • Head of the Modern Physics Department, University of Cantabria, 1988–1999