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European Southern Observatory

The ESO provides details about the UK's membership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) including links to ESO committees, observing information, contract opportunities, Studentships and Fellowships.

In July 2002, the UK became the tenth member of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) (link opens in a new window)|. ESO is an intergovernmental astronomical research organisation, operating a suite of telescopes at the Paranal and La Silla observatories in Chile on behalf of its Member States.


Membership of ESO ensures that UK astronomy remains at the cutting edge of the scientific research and discovery, whilst playing an integral role in developing the next generation of ground based facilities. UK astronomers are able to use the four 8.2-metre telescopes that comprise the Very Large Telescopes (VLT) (link opens in a new window)| and together with several 1.8-metre telescopes to form the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (link opens in a new window)| at the Paranal Observatory (link opens in a new window)| in the northern Atacama desert in Chile. They also have access to two 4-metre class and several smaller telescopes at the La Silla Observatory (link opens in a new window)| further south.

As part of its membership of ESO, the UK is contributing the 4.2-metre Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) (link opens in a new window)|. This is located at the Paranal Observatory and is due to be operational in 2007. Through its membership of ESO, the UK is also playing a crucial role in Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) (link opens in a new window)| and is also a major partner in the K-band Infrared Multi-Object Spectrometer (KMOS) (link opens in a new window)|, a second generation instrument for the Very Large Telescopes (VLT).

UK industry is well positioned to benefit from contract opportunities with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) (link opens in a new window)|. Competition is open to UK companies for contracts across a range of fields including adaptive optics, radio frequency systems, electrical and communications, software and computer technology, cryogenics, mechanical and engineering.

Many of the current contract opportunities relate to the construction of the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), a network of 64 12-metre telescopes to be located at an altitude of 5,000m in the Chilean desert, due for completion by 2012.

ESO related contract opportunities will also become available for the next generation of ground based optical telescopes and for enhancement of existing telescope instrumentation and infrastructure.

STFC is working with industry to enhance both the direct and indirect benefits which industry gets from its programme and provides a variety of assistance to UK companies interested in bidding for industrial contracts.

Organisational Structure

Details about the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Committees.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) (link opens in a new window) has several governing bodies and committees to provide oversight of the ESO facilities and programme. Details of the various ESO Governing Bodies and Committees (link opens in a new window) is available.

As a member of ESO, the UK sends representatives to all the ESO Governing Bodies and Committees. The current UK representatives are:

ESO Council:

ESO Finance Committee:

ESO Scientific Technical Committee:

ESO Observing Programmes Committee:

ESO User's Committee:


Event information

ESO/Industry Workshops and Events are organised from time to time to raise awareness of the opportunities available to UK industry. The following events have been held:

  • UK / ESO Industry Day - Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), 16 June 2003.
  • ESO Awareness Seminar - Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), 29 -30 October 2003. This was a follow-up to the UK/ESO Industry day and provided an opportunity to meet key ESO personnel involved with ESO's current projects including ALMA and also procurement opportunities for UK companies.
  • ESO, STFC and Trade Partners UK Seminar - This seminar comprised presentations from key ESO staff, a short trip around the Garching facility and one to one individual meetings between the UK companies attending the seminar and key ESO staff. In addition the British Consulate General hosted an evening reception sponsored by TPUK and attended by members of ESO, Trade Partners UK, STFC and the British Consulate General.

Last updated: 12 June 2019


Science and Technology Facilities Council
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