ESO 40 Years (1962 - 2002)

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Four Decades at the Service of European Astronomy and Astrophysics

This autumn, the European Southern Observatory is celebrating its 40th anniversary. From an idea by visionary European astronomers in the 1950s, to the signing of the ESO Convention on October 5, 1962 and to its present position as one of the leading research organisations in the field of astronomy and astrophysics, ESO has undergone a tremendous development.

The beginnings of ESO (until about 1975) are described in the book "ESO's Early History" by Adriaan Blauw, ESO Director General (1970 - 1974), that was published by ESO in 1991. This book is still available from ESO, see the corresponding webpage.

The September 2002 issue of the ESO Messenger ( No. 109 ) includes several contributions related to ESO' s past history.

A Celebratory Event and Press Conference was held at the ESO Headquarters in Garching (near Munich, Bavaria, Germany) on Monday, September 9, 2002. It was organised in conjunction with the official visit of the German Secretary of State, Dr. Uwe Thomas, from the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) together with other distinguished guests, including Consuls General of the ESO member states in Munich and scientist-colleagues from German research institutes.

The following additional activities have taken place or are still planned - more details to be announced as indicated:

  • A 50-min ESO film "Europe Reaches for the Stars - 40 Years ESO" . This new EPR production provides a unique overview of the development of the organisation, from the first ideas to the present successes and also with a view towards the future. It is now available from the EPR Dept. in English, French and German, cf. the website with General ESO Videos. A DVD version (audio in the above three languages) is also available.
  • A planetarium show about ESO , its telescopes and some of the results obtained has been produced in collaboration with the Association des plané tariums de langue franç aise (APFL). It will be shown in many planetaria in France and other, mostly European, countries. See the list of participating planetaria.
  • A new, beautiful book " Geheimnisvolles Universum - Europas Astronomen entschleiern das Weltall" (ISBN 3-440-09246-1, 208 pp., Kosmos Verlag - so far in German only) by science journalist Dirk Lorenzen, is now available in the bookstores.
  • ESO and the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE) carried through the exciting "Catch a Star!" web-based programme within the context of the EC-sponsored European Week of Science and Technology (EWST) - 2002 . The prizes were drawn by lottery during a webcast from the ESO Headquarters on Friday, November 8th, 2002.
  • Several new posters with more splendid images of astronomical objects, to be announced via the ESO poster webpage.
  • A CD-ROM with many ESO images and video-clips is being produced in collaboration with United Soft Media Verlag in Munich, Germany, and will become in late 2002. Details to be announced.