ESO: The Organisation and its Mission. Current and Future facilities

Sandro D'Odorico

European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschildstrasse 2, D-85748 Garching bei München, Germany

The European Southern Observatory is an international organization established in 1961 with the scope to do astronomical research in the sky of the southern hemisphere. It has currently 15 member states: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Chile, as the host country of the observatories, has also the right to get observing time. Headquarter, technical labs and the data handling center are located in Germany, near Munich. ESO operates currently two optical observatories in the Atacama desert with several telescopes, the most important ones being the 4x8m of the VLT at the Paranal location south of Antofagasta. A summary of the current instrumentation and detectors at the VLT will be presented.

An array of radio antennas for observations at high angular resolution and high sensitivity at sub-millimeter wavelengths (ALMA) is operating at a third location, at an altitude of ∼ 4500m.

Examples of recent scientific results in the study of planets and the distant universe obtained with the ESO telescope will be shown. Finally, details will be given on two other facilities under construction on ESO land in Chile: the Extremely Large (Optical)Telescope (39m diameter) and the Cherenkov Telescope Array.

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