Spanish Involvement with the European Southern Observatory


Discoveries by Spanish astronomers using ESO telescopes

Number of Spanish astronomers and staff working at ESO
Spanish contributions to ALMA
Spanish contributions to the VLT
Spanish contributions to the E-ELT


This version is from January 2016.

Spain signed an agreement to join the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in July 2006 and the membership entered into effect in February 2007.

Contracts totally nearly 23 million euro have been awarded to Spanish industry in the decade since Spain joined the organisation. In addition, another 13 million euro had been awarded to Spanish companies in relation to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) project before 1 July 2006, in anticipation of Spain becoming an ESO Member State.

Discoveries by Spanish astronomers using ESO telescopes

A Spanish astronomer (Pilar Ruiz-Lapuente, University of Barcelona, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilar_Ruiz-Lapuente) was a member of one of the teams that discovered the accelerating expansion of the Universe. This work was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011.

ESO science press releases from 2012 up to the end of 2015 that have involved astronomers working at Spanish institutes include:

Number of Spanish astronomers and staff working at ESO

As of November 2015 there were 31 Spanish nationals employed at ESO.

Spain has contributed to many aspects of ESO. In the following sections we list some of the largest contracts placed related to ALMA on on the Chajnantor plateau in the Chilean Andes, the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Cerro Paranal and the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) under construction on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal.

Spanish contributions to ALMA

  • The single largest contract with a Spanish company as prime contractor was with TSK Electronida y Electricidad (http://www.tsk.es) for the ALMA multi-fuel power generation system.
  • The company with the single largest share of an ESO contract is Asturfeito S.A. (http://www.asturfeito.com), as subcontractor to the AEM consortium for the ALMA antennas.

Other Spanish companies with significant ALMA involvement included:

Spanish contributions to the VLT

Because Spain joined ESO after the VLT construction was essentially complete there was inevitably little early involvement. However, there has been Spanish involvement with later instrumentation, including:

NTE-SENER S.A., for the design, manufacturing, integration & testing of the GRAAL main assembly (GRAAL is the adaptive optics module for the infrared imager HAWK-I).

Spanish contributions to the E-ELT

Spain had major involvement with the design of the E-ELT and is continuing this involvement as ESO moves into the construction phase. Spanish industry has a strong interest in the future of the E-ELT.

The main contracts awarded to Spanish companies related to the design aspects of the E-ELT include:

  • Preliminary design of the dome; IDOM Ingenieria y Consultoria S.A. (http://www.idom.es/)
  • Preliminary design of the mirror cell; Compañia Española de Sistemas Aeronáuticos (CESA) (http://www.cesa.aero/)

In addition IDOM, CESA, Empresarios Agrupados Internacional, SA (Madrid), (EAI, http://www.empre.es) and NTE-SENER S.A. (NTE, http://www.nte-sener.es) have carried out several large “Front-End Engineering Design” contracts covering many major aspects of the construction phase of the E-ELT.

ESO spent approximately 10 million euros in Spain during the E-ELT Phase B.

In 2014 a contract of more than 1 million euros was awarded to CESA as part of the development work for the very complex E-ELT primary mirror segment support system.

In 2015 more than 3 million euros went to Spanish subcontractors as part of the development and construction of the HARMONI instrument for the E-ELT.