Austrian Involvement with the European Southern Observatory
Delicate bubble of expelled material around the cool red star U Antliae (Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/F. Kerschbaum)
Austria joined ESO as a Member State on 1 July 2009. While this makes Austria one of ESO’s more recent Member States, the country’s community of scientists and engineers have contributed to ESO projects in key ways, from participating in discoveries to playing important roles in developing instruments.
As of mid 2022, there are six Austrian nationals employed at ESO, five in Germany and one in Chile. Furthermore, ESO has awarded 11 studentships and one fellowship to Austrian nationals since 2004, as well as four internships since 2014.
Austria is represented in the various ESO governing and advisory bodies by astronomers and policy experts; the current Austrian representatives of ESO’s various committees with national representation can be found here.
The ESO Science Outreach Network (ESON) includes Austrian representatives who act as ESO’s media and outreach local contacts.
Here follows some information about Austria's involvement with ESO.
Discoveries by Austria-based astronomers using ESO telescopes
Austrian researchers and those based at Austrian institutions have been involved in important discoveries using ESO facilities, such as:
- The team led by Franz Kerschbaum at the University of Vienna that used ALMA to study the remarkable carbon-monoxide shell of the U Antliae exotic red star, helping astronomers better understand how stars evolve in the later-stages of their life-cycles.
- Another team, led by Stefan Meingast and João Alves at the University of Vienna, that conducted a survey dubbed VISIONS — Vienna Survey in Orion, using the VISTA telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, to study star formation in one of the largest nearby star factories. The survey has produced stunning images while mapping how stars form in impressive detail.
- Another University of Vienna researcher, Helmut Dannerbauer, who led a team that used APEX to probe a huge galaxy cluster in the early Universe, revealing that much of the star formation taking place is not only hidden by dust, but also occurring in unexpected places.
- Researchers at the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ Space Research Institute, in Graz that have recently been involved in important exoplanet discoveries made possible thanks to ESO’s VLT. These include the finding of an exoplanet where it rains iron and the discovery of a puzzling six-exoplanet system.
Austrian involvement in ESO instruments and telescopes at ESO sites
Austria has contributed to many aspects of ESO, including the technology behind instruments, ESO telescopes and telescopes based at ESO sites. These contributions include:
- The development of MATISSE, a second-generation instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer. The Institute for Astronomy at the University of Vienna is part of the consortium that developed MATISSE.
- The company Astrosysteme Austria supplying the mounts and telescopes for ExTrA, a planet-hunting array hosted at ESO’s La Silla Observatory.
- Austria’s future membership of the European Research Infrastructure Consortium that will construct and operate the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), known as the CTA ERIC. The CTA will be a ground-based observatory for very high energy gamma-ray astronomy. It will consist of two arrays of dishes, a southern-hemisphere array hosted at ESO’s Paranal Observatory and a northern array on the island of La Palma, Spain. ESO will also be a member of the CTA ERIC and is represented in the council of the CTA.
Austrian involvement in ELT instruments
Austrian institutions also play a prominent role in designing and building instruments for the upcoming ESO Extremely Large Telescope. A*, an Austrian partnership represented by the University of Vienna, the University of Innsbruck, the University of Linz, the Johann Radon Institute for Computational and Applied Mathematics at the University of Linz, and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, is a key consortium partner in two of the first four ELT instruments, MICADO and METIS. The University of Vienna is also involved in the consortium for another ELT instrument, MOSAIC, which is still in the design-study phase.
Austrian industry and technology contributions to ESO
In addition to the examples above, Austrian industry has contributed to ESO projects, especially the ELT. For example, Weatherpark GmbH was tasked with evaluating the telescope's computational fluid dynamics analysis to ensure the stability of the ELT dome against external elements, such as wind.