Media Visits

Guidelines for media visits to the ESO observatories

The International Press at Paranal Observatory
The International Press at Paranal Observatory. Credit: ESO
Filming at Paranal.
Filming at Paranal. Credit: ESO


ESO welcomes journalists, science writers and producers who are interested in visiting the sites in Chile as part of the production process for news stories, documentaries, photo books and other projects. As these visits represent a significant investment of resources on the part of ESO, the ESO Department of Communication reserves the right to choose projects that have the largest return-on-investment (for instance, in terms of the media exposure of ESO and astronomy in general). There are two ways to visit the ESO sites as a media representative: Individual Media Visits and ESON group media visits.

Individual Media Visits

Individual media visits are initiated by media representatives who have a specific media project, for which they would benefit from being on location at the ESO sites. If you are interested in an individual media visit please contact the Department of Communication as far in advance as possible (preferably 2-3 months) by filling in this form. Please note that the processing and evalution of your request, will only be initiated once we receive the form, and that visit slots are filled out on a first-come first-served basis. If you have questions, please contact ESO at

ESON group media visits

ESON group media visits are organised by ESO through its Department of Communication and its Science Outreach Network (ESON). This is an exclusive service offered to a limited number of media representatives annually and ESO covers all expenses to and from Santiago airport. The programme contains a number of exclusive highlights and is filled with information about ESO and astronomy. If you are interested in being part of a group media visit, please contact ESO at These visits are planned 6–18 months ahead and therefore long advance notice from interested journalists is needed.

Information on Individual Media Visits:

How to apply for a Media Visit

  • To apply for an individual media visit, please:
    • Fill in the form below.
    • Once you have submitted the form, you should be notified within 48 hours; if not, please send an email to
    • Your request will be evaluated by the ESO Department of Communication on the basis of the following criteria:
      • The amount of exposure that ESO, its telescopes and the science of astronomy will receive.
      • Whether the ESO logo can be present in the production, and to which degree the product itself and its derivatives (DVD, trailer, press release, newsletter, etc) can be co-branded.
      • The expected number of viewers/readers for the product.
      • Whether ESO can use and distribute the footage/photos collected by the requester at ESO sites.
      • The complexity of the logistics involved and any impact on regular operations at the observatories.
      • The amount of time available for planning the visit.
    • Your will be notified of the tentative approval or rejection of your visit within 2 weeks; If your visit is tentatively approved, ESO will propose a travel itinerary to you.
    • Once the itinerary is agreed, ESO will start the internal approval process. You are recommended to not confirm any travel reservations until we get the final answer from the observatories.
    • You will be notified of the final approval or rejection of your visit within a reasonable time period. If you have a deadline please state it clearly in the form.

Win–win partnerships

Programmes for individual media visits are supported on site at the ESO sites by the Department of Communication. It represents a significant investment on the part of ESO (typically 2000–5000 euros per visit). This also means that we encourage our media visitors to link up with ESO for a win–win partnership. ESO can offer significant exposure for media productions, as well as targeted promotional campaigns for suitable projects. ESO can also offer assistance in terms of scientific input for scripts and texts.

Cancellation Policy

The cancellation of a visit should be communicated to the Department of Communication at least 48 working hours before the beginning of the visit. If the notification is sent by email, it needs to have a response to be considered accepted. Late cancellations are charged with € 1000 corresponding to the cost of the planning of your visit.

Travel, Accommodation & Transportation

  • ESO usually grants 2 days / 1 night for media visits at La Silla and Paranal. If necessary, longer periods can be arranged.
  • Weekdays are strongly preferred.
  • Accommodation at the La Silla Hotel or Paranal Residence is sponsored by ESO for accredited media representatives.
  • As ALMA is a project under construction, it is not possible to offer accommodation on site. A list of hotels in San Pedro de Atacama (~40 minutes away from the ALMA base camp) can be found at:
  • ESO does not provide transportation to visitors. They should have a suitable vehicle to reach and leave the observatories, as well as to move around once there.
  • ESO does not sell car fuel to visitors. Please make sure to refill your tank at the closest petrol station before arriving at the observatory. Only in case of an absolute emergency, will ESO provide a small amount of fuel to reach the closest petrol station.

For detailed travel information, please see the Contact and Travel pages.

Safety Constraints

  • ESO’s observatories are in continuous operation 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. The first priority of ESO is to ensure the undisturbed and continued operation of the observatory during the visits.
  • Scientific observing has absolute priority over photography and filming. Telescopes cannot be moved or directed to accommodate photography.
  • A member of the Department of Communication will be on site to accompany media visitor(s), acting as liaison between the astronomers and engineers, and arranging access to telescopes and other facilities. Visitors must follow his/her instructions when on site.
  • Any additional support (e.g. use of equipments or facilities) must be authorised in advance by ESO and stated in a formal agreement which must be signed by both parties. This agreement may include the reimbursement of expenses generated by the use of additional equipment or facilities by the visitor.
  • Due to safety and legal restrictions, the reference working time for media and special visits to the observatory is from 08:30 to 18:30, with a possible extension to 00:30 to see the telescopes open and visit the control room by night. Under exceptional circumstances additional night time will be granted, which should be requested in advance before arriving at the observatory.
  • No outdoor lights are allowed for exterior shots after sunset at La Silla and Paranal.
  • More information about travelling to La Silla is available here; more information about travelling to Paranal is available here.
  • The high-altitude site of ALMA (Chajnantor, 5000 metres) has some significant safety constraints. More information is available here.
  • Airplanes, helicopters, drones etc. are under normal circumstances not allowed to fly over/at the observatory. An exceptional authorisation may be requested. In those cases, an official agreement must be signed by both parties.

Media Release Form

Once a media visit has been authorised and confirmed by the Department of Communication, the requester should fill in a media release form, which is available in .doc and .pdf formats. Please submit a signed version to before the actual date of the visit.

Main Filming Locations


  • The Atacama Desert.
  • The Residencia (the VLT hotel).
  • The telescopes (interior and exterior): the interior of telescopes are accessible most of the time during the day, subject to previous authorisation by the telescope manager. However, they cannot be opened. The opening process starts around 60 minutes before sunset. After sunset, access to the telescopes is prohibited.
  • The control room, where engineers and astronomers operate the telescopes by night. Interviews and interaction with the staff is possible, taking into account their regular duties during the night.
  • Access to interferometric delay lines is restricted. If there is a particular interest and justification for filming this, it has to be discussed well in advance, but we cannot guarantee access.


  • The Operations Support Facility (OSF), at an altitude of 2900 metres. Access to the control room and laboratories is possible, but should be requested in advance. Interviews and interaction with the staff is possible, taking into account their regular duties.
  • The ALMA site museum, on the way to Chajnantor.
  • The technical building at Chajnantor, which houses the ALMA correlator supercomputers.
  • The APEX antenna at 5100 metres at Chajnantor. Access to the antenna is possible, but it should be requested in advance. The APEX antenna cannot point directly at the Sun and will be "parked" in the hours around noon, so early in the morning or the afternoon are the preferred times to see the antenna making scientific observations during daylight hours.
  • Cerro Chico, adjacent to Chajnantor plateau but higher up, for general views of the fascinating altiplano landscape.

La Silla

  • The ESO 3.6-metre telescope and HARPS, the world's foremost exoplanet hunter
  • The New Technology Telescope
  • Many exciting national and robotic telescopes


If you don't see the form above please follow this link.