ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world's most productive astronomical observatory. ESO provides state-of-the-art research facilities to astronomers and is supported by Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. Several other countries have expressed an interest in membership.
ESO's main mission, laid down in the 1962 Convention, is to provide state-of-the-art research facilities to astronomers and astrophysicists, allowing them to conduct front-line science in the best conditions. The annual Member State contributions to ESO are approximately 140 million Euros and ESO employs around 680 staff members. By building and operating a suite of the world's most powerful ground-based astronomical telescopes enabling important scientific discoveries, ESO offers numerous possibilities for technology spin-off and transfer, together with high technology contract opportunities and is a dramatic showcase for European industry.
Whilst the Headquarters (comprising the scientific, technical and administrative centre of the organisation) are located in Garching near Munich, Germany, ESO operates, in addition to the Santiago Centre, three unique observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor.
ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.