eso0738 — Organisation Release
Professor Tim de Zeeuw Takes Up Duty as New ESO Director General
3 September 2007
On 1 September, Tim de Zeeuw became the new ESO Director General, succeeding Catherine Cesarsky. In his first day in office, he kindly agreed to answer a few questions.
How would you describe the current period for astronomy?
Tim de Zeeuw: We are in an extremely exciting time for astronomy and I think this is understood worldwide and not just by astronomers. The technology is now available to look not only at the farthest objects in the Universe, where the light left a long time ago, allowing us to see how the Universe evolved and developed, but we can even detect signatures of planets around other stars, and that answers an age-old question which is a fundamental question in all of science, and really excites the general public.
How do you see the role of ESO in this context?
Tim de Zeeuw: ESO has a very important role in the context of European and worldwide astronomy because it is one of the leading organisations for ground-based astronomy. You may even say it is the pre-eminent organisation. Therefore, we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to lead the further developments in astronomy.
Where do you see ESO developing in the coming years?
Tim de Zeeuw: I see three main goals for ESO in the coming years. The first one is to get the best possible science out of the Very Large Telescope, the interferometer and the survey telescopes, all of them on Paranal. The second is to build ALMA, the new observatory at 5 000 metres in the high Andes. Together with our North American and East Asian partners, we need to deliver this on budget and on time, and prepare the European astronomers for leading the science. The third main goal is to design a world-leading Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which may have a main mirror with a diameter larger than 40 metres and will enable wonderful science. And of course, we don’t only want to design it, we also want to construct it.
And what about La Silla?
Tim de Zeeuw: La Silla is the cornerstone of the existence of ESO in Chile, and it is home to some wonderful telescopes, including the one that is discovering so many exoplanets. I see no reason why this could not continue for many years into the future. And on top of that, La Silla is one of the potential sites for the future ELT.
What made you take up this position?
Tim de Zeeuw: I took up this position because ESO is the most exciting astronomy organisation in the world, with highly qualified staff and long-term and stable support by the member countries. It will be a pleasure and a privilege to come and work here.
What will you do in your first days in office?
Tim de Zeeuw: First, I will further familiarise myself with the organisation but then I will very quickly travel to Chile. After all, the crown jewels of ESO are in Chile and it is very important that I meet not only the ESO staff in Chile, but also the Chilean astronomers and authorities.
You can find more details on Prof. de Zeeuw in the Director General's pages.