Media Visits

Guidelines for media visits to the ESO observatories

ESO welcomes journalists, science writers and producers who are interested in visiting the sites in Chile as part of the production process for news stories, documentaries, photo books and other projects. As these visits represent a significant investment of resources on the part of ESO, the ESO education and Public Outreach Department reserves the right to choose projects that have the largest return-on-investment (for instance, in terms of the media exposure of ESO and astronomy in general). There are two ways to visit the ESO sites as a media representative: Individual Media Visits and ESON group media visits.

Individual Media Visits

Individual media visits are initiated by media representatives who have a specific media project, for which they would benefit from being on location at the ESO sites. If you are interested in an individual media visit please contact ESO ePOD as far in advance as possible (preferably 2-3 months) by filling in the form. Please note that the processing and evalution of your request, will only be initiated once we receive the form, and that visit slots are filled out on a first-come first-served basis. If you have questions, please contact ESO ePOD at

ESON group media visits

ESON group media visits are organised by ESO through ePOD and its Science Outreach Network (ESON). This is an exclusive service offered to a limited number of media representatives annually and ESO covers all expenses to and from Santiago airport. The programme contains a number of exclusive highlights and is filled with information about ESO and astronomy. If you are interested in being part of a group media visit, please contact ESO ePOD at These visits are planned 6–18 months ahead and therefore long advance notice from interested journalists is needed.

Information on Individual Media Visits:

Travel, Accommodation & Transportation

ESO usually grants 2 days / 1 night for media visits at La Silla and Paranal. If necessary, longer periods can be provided. Weekdays are strongly preferred.

Accommodation at the La Silla Hotel and Paranal Residence is sponsored by ESO for accredited media representatives.

As ALMA is a project under construction, it is not possible to offer accommodation on site. A list of hotels at San Pedro de Atacama (~40 minutes away from the ALMA base camp) can be found at:

ESO does not provide transportation to visitors. They should have a suitable vehicle to reach and leave the observatories, as well as to move around once there.

For detailed travel information, please see Contact and Travel pages.

Safety constraints

A member of ePOD will be on site to accompany media visitor(s), acting as liaison with the astronomers / engineers and arranging access to telescopes and other facilities. Visitors must follow his/her instructions when on site.

Due to safety and legal restrictions, the reference working time for media and special visits to the observatory is from 08:30 to 18:30, with a possible extension to 00:30 to see the telescopes open and visit the control room by night. Under exceptional circumstances additional night time will be granted, which should be requested in advance before arriving at the observatory.

No outdoor lights are allowed for exterior shots after sunset at La Silla and Paranal. More information about travelling to La Silla is available here; More information about travelling to Paranal is available here.

The high site of ALMA (Chajnantor, 5000 metres) has some significant safety constraints. More information is available here.

Once your visit to Paranal Observatory is approved and confirmed, you will receive an email with the instructions to complete the on-line mandatory Safety Induction. Please, be so kind to do so before your arrival to Paranal Observatory.

Win–win partnerships

Programmes for individual media visits are supported on site at the ESO sites by ePOD. It represents a significant investment on the part of ESO (typically 2000–5000 euros). This also means that we encourage our media visitors to link up with ESO for a win–win partnership.  ESO ePOD can offer significant exposure for media productions, as well as targeted promotional campaigns for suitable projects. ESO can also offer assistance in terms of scientific input for scripts and texts.

When evaluating proposals for individual media visits we look at the following factors:

  • The amount of exposure that ESO and its telescopes will receive.
  • The amount of exposure that astronomy will receive.
  • Whether the ESO logo can be present in the production, and how much the product itself and its derivatives (DVD, trailer, press release, newsletter, etc) can be co-branded.
  • The expected number of viewers/readers for the product.
  • Whether ESO can use and distribute the footage/shots taken by the requester at ESO sites.
  • The complexity of the logistics involved and any impact on regular operations at the observatories.

Media Release Form

Once a media visit has been authorised and confirmed by ePOD, the requester should fill in a media release form, which is available in .doc and .pdf formats. Please submit a signed version to before the actual date of the visit.

Main Paranal filming locations

  • The Atacama Desert
  • The Residencia (the VLT hotel)
  • Telescopes (interior / exterior): the interior of telescopes are accessible most of the time during the day, subject to previous authorisation by the telescope manager. However, they cannot be opened. The opening process starts around 60 minutes before sunset. After sunset, access to the telescopes is prohibited.
  • Control room, where engineers and astronomers operate the telescopes by night. Interviews and interaction with the staff is possible, taking into account their regular duties during the night.
  • Access to interferometric delay lines is restricted. If there is a particular interest and justification for filming this, it has to be discussed well in advance, but we cannot guarantee access.

APEX / ALMA main filming locations

  • Operations Support Facility (OSF), 2900 metres, where the ALMA antennas are being assembled by ESO, NRAO and NAOJ. Access to assembly sites is possible, but should be requested in advance.
  • ALMA site museum, on the way to Chajnantor.
  • Technical building at Chajnantor, which houses the ALMA correlator supercomputers.
  • APEX antenna at 5100 metres at Chajnantor. Access to the antenna is possible, but it should be requested in advance. The APEX antenna cannot point directly to the Sun and will be "parked" in the hours around noon, so early in the morning or the afternoon are the preferred times to see the antenna making science observations during daylight hours.
  • Cerro Chico, adjacent to Chajnantor plateau but higher up, for general vistas of the fascinating altiplano landscape.

If you don't see the form above please follow this link