FAQ ESO & Brazil
- When did the negotiations start? What's the history of Brazil joining ESO?
- Why Brazil? What are the criteria that the ESO Council uses to decide whether a country can join ESO?
- What are the benefits for Brazil?
- What is Brazil's contribution?
- When is the Brazilian Government expected to ratify the Membership?
- Will the name of the European Southern Observatory change as a consequence of having a non-European Member State? Can ESO still be considered a European organisation?
- Is Brazil a member of any other European intergovernmental institutions?
- Are any other non-European potential Member States currently negotiating with ESO?
- What expectations does ESO have in terms of science done by Brazilians?
- Will the E-ELT be ready before other extremely large telescopes such as the Thirty Meter Telescope?
- Will the E-ELT still be named the /European/ Extremely Large Telescope?
- Could you say more about the astronomy in the Brazilian flag?
A: The first informal discussions with Brazil started in early 2009, and included a colloquium about ESO in Sao Paulo given by the ESO Council President as part of the development of a strategic plan for Brazilian astronomy. Further discussions took place during the International Astronomical Union General Assembly, when ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, invited the Brazilian Minister of State for Science and Technology, Sergio Machado Rezende, to visit ALMA and the ESO Paranal Observatory in February 2010.
Brazilian astronomers agreed that they should apply for ESO Membership in May 2010, and accordingly made a recommendation to Minister Rezende. A formal expression of interest in accession was sent via the Brazilian embassy to Berlin, arriving just before the June 2010 ESO Council meeting. As a result, informal negotiations with the government took place throughout June, July and August 2010.
An extraordinary ESO Council meeting on 5 October 2010 unanimously decided to formally invite Brazil to apply for Membership. The decision was followed by formal negotiations in Brasilia on 2 and 3 December 2010 and a formal application from Brazil, which was received on 14 December 2010. On 21 December 2010 another extraordinary Council meeting unanimously approved the signing of an agreement between ESO and Brazil.
On 29 December 2010, at a ceremony in Brasilia, the Brazilian Minister of State for Science and Technology, Sergio Machado Rezende, and the ESO Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, signed the formal accession agreement aiming to make Brazil a Member State of the European Southern Observatory. Brazil will become the fifteenth Member State and the first from outside Europe. Since the agreement means acceding to an international convention, the agreement must now be submitted to the Brazilian Parliament for ratification.
Q: Why Brazil? What are the criteria that the ESO Council uses to decide whether a country can join ESO?
A: The European Southern Observatory has a long history of successful involvement with South America, beginning with the selection of Chile as the best site for its observatories in 1963 and continued more recently when the same location was chosen for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). This long-term collaboration with South America has brought ESO closer to countries such as Brazil, which could easily see the scientific and technological advances resulting from ESO’s Observatories and the positive impact on the local economy. At the same time, ESO has witnessed the impressive rapid development of the Brazilian astronomical community and the efforts made to advance science and technology in the country.
For a country to become a Member State of ESO it has to have a strong, motivated and well-prepared astronomical community. As a country, it should be ready to invest in science and technology and should have both a stable economy and a stable political situation.
A: Astronomers from Brazil will have observing time at ESO’s top-class facilities, including the world’s most advanced optical light telescope — the Very Large Telescope — the largest astronomical project in existence, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), which ESO is building with its international partners. They will also benefit from collaborating with European colleagues on designing and constructing front-line astronomical projects such as the future biggest eye on the sky, the E-ELT. Apart from access to the latest technology, Brazilian astronomers will also benefit from access to some of the best observing sites on Earth.
As a direct benefit to Brazilian industry, ESO high-tech projects incorporate many innovative developments, and offer technology contract opportunities and numerous possibilities for technology spin-off and transfer. These projects can act as important drivers for high-tech companies and can have a lasting impact on a country.
A: Brazil’s accession fee is 130 million euros and this will be paid over the course of ten years. The annual contribution is proportional to net national income, but will ramp up in the early years, taking into account the relatively modest GDP/capita of Brazil. Brazil’s cumulative contribution over the coming decade will help with the planned expansion of ESO’s programme, including the construction of the E-ELT.
A: During 2012 or 2013.
Q: Will the name of the European Southern Observatory change as a consequence of having a non-European Member State? Can ESO still be considered a European organisation?
A: ESO was established in 1962 with the aim of offering European astronomers access to the southern skies and bringing Europe to the frontline of astronomical research. Forty-eight years later, ESO has gone beyond that, becoming the most productive observatory in the world and a driving force behind ground-based astronomy globally.
ESO started as, and will continue to be, a European organisation, but it is now sufficiently well-established and mature enough to expand its mission beyond Europe, enabling extensive global collaboration in astronomical research.
The name of the organisation remains the same, while its mission can now expand at a truly global level — allowing the Member States to work together to build and operate advanced astronomical facilities that are beyond the capabilities of individual countries, regardless of the continent where these countries are located.
ESO has always gone beyond boundaries, repeatedly setting new benchmarks in science and technology. With Brazil’s accession to ESO, the organisation takes a new step to break geographical barriers, becoming a platform for mega-science projects at global level.
A: As far as ESO is aware Brazil is not yet a full member of any other European intergovernmental organisations.
A: ESO has reached a new phase in its evolution where it can become a platform for global scientific projects. We are open to the idea of considering new Member States from outside Europe, although we currently do not have any other formal discussions going on in this respect. Several countries have however expressed an interest.
A: We expect Brazilian scientists to make full use of ESO’s facilities, which will allow them to advance our understanding of the Universe and to collaborate with their European colleagues. We are convinced they will bring new resources and skills to the organisation.
Q: Will the E-ELT be ready before other extremely large telescopes such as the Thirty Meter Telescope?
A: The start of construction of the E-ELT is planned for 2012 with start of operation early next decade. In June 2012 the ESO Council approved the E-ELT programme, pending confirmation of four ad referendum votes. For more details please see:
It is not possible to predict whether this will be ahead of the other extremely large telescope projects, although we would naturally be proud to deliver the first results from the coming generation of ground-breaking mega-telescopes. However, building these massive telescopes is not a race between competing projects, but the next step on the path we are all following to discover answers to fundamental questions about our existence and the origin of the Universe.
A: The European Extremely Large Telescope is a temporary name that has been commonly used to refer to the project. Its official and final name has not yet been decided and will likely not remain the same.
A: The Brazilian flag has an important astronomical background. There are several constellations pictured, each star representing a Brazilian state. The constellations are depicted as if seen from above (i.e. from outside the illusory celestial sphere that the night sky appears to resemble when seen from Earth), and positioned as they would have been on 15 November 1889 at 08:30 over Rio de Janeiro. The day of 15 November 1889 was when the Republic was proclaimed, and 08:30 was the moment at which the constellation of the Southern Cross was on the meridian of Rio de Janeiro and the longer arm (of the cross) was vertical. Read more about the astronomy behind the Brazilian flag on: http://flagspot.net/flags/br_astro.html.