ESO and Chile: More than 50 years of astronomy and cooperation

In 1963, ESO and Chile signed a visionary agreement which paved the way for the construction of La Silla Observatory, in the Coquimbo region. This original intention, based on the spirit of trust and cooperation, has led ESO, almost 60 years later, to operate all of its observatories in Chile, generating a unique synergy with society in the country.

To provide a perspective on the accomplishments of the long-standing collaboration between ESO and Chile, ESO gathered examples, indicators and testimonies to illustrate its cooperation with Chile in the last five years, from 2015 to 2020.

The report “Astronomy and Society — Summary of ESO–Chile Cooperation 2020” explores and showcases all areas of cooperation, in depth.


Science and education

The history of astronomy in Chile and ESO’s own history are closely related. Today astronomy is one of the most relevant sciences in the country, in part thanks to cooperation between Chile and ESO.

Since the 1960s, ESO has consolidated its role serving the astronomical community and operating state-of-the-art scientific facilities, such as La Silla, Paranal and ALMA. During these decades, ESO has provided the critical observational data for many scientific discoveries and breakthroughs to teams around the world, including in Chile.

In 1996, ESO and Chile signed an agreement that grants guaranteed observing time on ESO telescopes to Chilean scientific institutions. In addition, the ESO–Government of Chile Joint Committee was established and, since 1998, this annual competitive fund has contributed to the development of astronomy, outreach and related technologies in the country.



Financial investment

ESO's investment in Chile is distributed across several areas: funds to develop national astronomy, educational funds, procurement of goods and services by placing contracts with Chilean companies, and in recruiting Chilean citizens for ESO’s operation in the country.




A public scientific organisation such as ESO has the responsibility to share the discoveries that result from its scientific activities with society at large. ESO has a popular programme of visits (free of charge) to its observatories, both virtual and in-person, as well as an extensive programme for media visits to its facilities.

In addition, the Organisation delivers and participates in a wide range of communication and dissemination activities, particularly in its Member States and in Chile. Moreover, ESO’s extensive archive of graphic and audio-visual material is available openly and free of charge to everyone.




ESO appreciates the opportunity to operate its astronomical observatories in the Atacama Desert, a place that offers unique conditions to carry out astronomy research. Helping to preserve these unique conditions makes environmental protection an extremely important goal of the Organisation, which permeates all its projects and operations.

In order to reduce the environmental impact of operations in Chile and in Europe, ESO is implementing a number of initiatives, such as operating telescopes with renewable energy and replacing its fleet of vehicles by electric cars.



National and regional focus

ESO’s operations in the country are governed by a number of international agreements signed with the Republic of Chile, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate for Energy, Science, Technology and Innovation (DECITY). ESO also maintains an active link with government related agencies, such as the National Agency for Research and Development (ANID)  — formerly National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) — and, more recently, with the Ministry for Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation.  


Más información de la colaboración entre ESO y Chile están disponibles en línea en la publicación “Astronomía y sociedad — Resumen de cooperación entre ESO y Chile 2020” en español e inglés.Further information on the collaboration between ESO and Chile is available online, in the report “Astronomy and Society — Summary of cooperation between ESO and Chile 2020”, in English and Spanish.

To find out more about the impact of ESO on society, visit our dedicated website.

Colaboration in Infographics