Xavier Barcons Appointed as Next ESO Director General

9. december 2016

The ESO Council has appointed Xavier Barcons, 57, as the next Director General of ESO. He will take up his position on 1 September 2017, when Tim de Zeeuw, the current Director General, completes his mandate.

On behalf of Council, I am delighted to appoint Xavier Barcons as Tim de Zeeuw’s successor as Director General,” says Patrick Roche, President of ESO Council. "Xavier is ideally placed to lead the further development of the organisation in the next phase of its programme, including the construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope, the most powerful and ambitious telescope of its kind. We thank Tim for his exemplary leadership of ESO through a remarkably successful decade, which has firmly established ESO as the leading astronomical observatory on Earth."

Professor Xavier Barcons is Spanish and has had a distinguished career both in the academic world and also as an expert in science policy. He is also well known at ESO after his active and successful term as Council President between 2012 and 2014, a period that included the approval of the E-ELT Programme and the start of Phase 1 of the telescope’s construction. He has also served as an active member and chair of many other ESO committees, most recently being chair of the Observing Programmes Committee.

Tim de Zeeuw comments: “I am very pleased to hand the baton to Xavier, who I have had the great pleasure of working closely with for many years. The scope of ESO’s programme has expanded a lot and the future looks bright — ALMA is producing fascinating science, the E-ELT is under construction and new projects and Member States are on the horizon. But there are also undoubtedly many challenges to come, and I can’t think of a better captain to steer the ship than Xavier!

Xavier Barcons adds: “I feel very honoured to take on the leadership of ESO at this exciting time. During Tim’s leadership the organisation has flourished and grown. I look forward to seeing the E-ELT come to fruition and overseeing the further development of the Very Large Telescope, ALMA and many other projects at ESO. I also look forward to working with ESO’s world-class staff.

Xavier Barcons began his career as a physicist and completed his PhD at the University of Cantabria in 1985 on the subject of hot plasmas and the intergalactic medium. This led to an interest in X-ray astronomy and the study of the spectra of distant quasars. After a period working in Cambridge, UK, he returned to Spain and was instrumental in establishing the first X-ray astronomy group in his country. Since 2002 he has been Research Professor at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC).

Xavier’s subsequent research has focussed on X-ray astronomy and he has used data from many space observatories, including Einstein, ROSAT and XMM-Newton, as well as arranging many coordinated ground-based observing campaigns at ESO and elsewhere. During the last 15 years he has been promoting a next generation European X-ray observatory, now selected by ESA as the Athena mission. A particular area of scientific interest is the nature of active galactic nuclei in the distant Universe and how observing both from space and the ground can lead to a better understanding of their properties and evolution.

Xavier Barcons is married and has two children.


Richard Hook
ESO Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
Mobil: +49 151 1537 3591

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Xavier Barcons appointed as next ESO Director General
Xavier Barcons appointed as next ESO Director General