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ESO - European Southern Observatory

European Southern Observatory (ESO) develops telescopes as well as optical and infrared instruments for use in ESO’s observatories. The instruments vary greatly and allow researchers to study e.g. the birth of stars, Earth-like planets in other solar systems or the light emanating from Big Bang.

ESO was established in 1962 and Denmark became a member in 1967. Today, ESO has 16 European member countries including Denmark. ESO’s headquarter is located in Garching near Munich in Germany while the ESO observatories are situated in Chile in the desert region of Atacama where the sky is always clear.

The value of Danish membership

The Paranal Observatory. Photo: ESO
The Paranal Observatory. Photo: ESO
Danish membership provides access for Danish astronomers to use ESO telescopes. Biannually, ESO calls for applications to regular projects and, in addition, applications are also permitted for the study of sudden phenomena. Every year, ESO receives around 2,000 applications for observing time. Observing time is thus granted on the basis of fierce competition between project proposals. Approx. 950 scientific articles are produces every year on the basis of the observations.

In recent years, Danish astronomers have been granted about 2 per cent of all observing time at ESO telescopes – the equivalent of 30 nights annually. ESO telescopes and databases constitute the principal access to Earth-based observations for Danish astronomers. Postdocs and graduate students can also apply for scholarships to stay at the observatories in Chile or at the ESO headquarter in Garching near Munich in Germany where ESO’s archives and databases are situated.

The task of building and maintaining the observatories are put up for tender and it is, therefore,

Extremely Large Telescope - ELT. Photo: ESO
Extremely Large Telescope - ELT. Photo: ESO
important that Danish universities and companies stay updated on their contract opportunities. Two-thirds of the ESO budget is spent on contracts in Chile – of the remaining third, Danish companies have contracts for about 2 per cent.

Several Danish companies are supplies to ESO. BigScience.dk enables the contact between Danish companies and ESO, and with events like "DK @ ESO", Danish companies can establish direct contact to ESO.

Danish contribution to the membership

The ESO annual budget of approx. DKK 1.3 billion is spent on construction, maintenance and operation of the observatories. Instruments for the telescopes are partly funded nationally and are constructed either by ESO or by consortia consisting of companies and institutes in the ESO member countries. In addition, member countries contribute in-kind with instruments or participation in instruments.

Danish contribution to ESO is approx. DKK 25 million annually – roughly 2 per cent of ESO’s total annual budget. The Instrument Center for Danish Astrophysics (IDA) proposes the Danish scientific delegate to ESO councils, recommends members of ESO scientific committees and advices on scientific priorities on an ad hoc basis. The scientific delegate to ESO councils keep IDA informed on relevant topics.

For the construction of Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) until 2022, Denmark contributes with a special increased member countribution of 2 per cent while for the same time period also 3 Danish universities contribute with approx. DKK 4 million annually.



René Michelsen
Tlf.: +45 72 31 82 49
Email: rmi@ufm.dk

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last modified January 09, 2024