ESO 50th Anniversary events

On Friday 5 October 2012, join us in celebrating the 50th birthday of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and 50 years of Europe’s quest to explore the southern sky.

To see the currently registered ESO 50th Anniversary event venues, please check our list on the venue page.

Concept overview

Friday 5 October 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of ESO, which took place on 5 October 1962 with the signature by the Founding Members Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden of the ESO Convention.

The events are intended as a partnership between ESO and selected Organisers — at venues such as Public Observatories, Planetariums, Science Centres, Museums, Art Galleries, or other public spaces. An Organiser may also be an individual or group acting as a liaison between ESO and one of these venues.

The centrepiece of the event will be a live connection to ESO’s Paranal Observatory, in Chile, home of the world’s most advanced visible light astronomical observatory — the Very Large Telescope (VLT), and to the ESO Headquarters in Garching bei München, Germany. We will be making live observations of the Thor's Helmet Nebula (NGC 2359), an astronomical target selected by our "Choose What the VLT Observes" vote, with the help of the winner of our "Tweet Your Way to the VLT!" competition (see announcement ann12060 for details). We will be streaming further segments during the day, and a never-before-seen stunning astronomical image from ESO will also be unveiled at the events.

In addition to the live streaming and never-before-seen image, an ESO representative will visit your venue to talk about ESO’s state-of-the-art observatories, and the latest scientific and technological achievements. Organisers may also add other "local extras" such as additional material, public talks, or other activities.

A range of merchandise will accompany the event, such as: the ESO anniversary coffee-table book and documentary “Europe to the Stars” (on DVD and Blu-ray); “The Jewel on the Mountaintop”, a book detailing ESO’s history, posters, postcards, stickers and more.

Details of the partnership

Benefits for Organisers

  1. Organisers will be able to host a unique event, offering the public:
    1. the rare opportunity to connect live with the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory. This will allow your audience to see the telescopes and the unearthly landscape of Cerro Paranal for themselves. We will be making live observations of the Thor's Helmet Nebula (NGC 2359), an astronomical target selected by our "Choose What the VLT Observes" vote, with the help of the winner of our "Tweet Your Way to the VLT!" competition (see announcement ann12060 for details). We will be streaming further segments during the day, from Paranal and from the ESO Headquarters.
    2. the unveiling of a never-before-seen stunning astronomical image from ESO, produced in large format ideal for public display. For confirmed ESO 50th Anniversary events on 5 October (subject to availability and the shipping time to your location), we will print and ship the image to you in advance. It will be printed in high resolution, in full colour, on a PVC canvas approximately 2.8 metres by 3.0 metres in size. The canvas will make an extremely dramatic display for your venue, and can also be used outdoors! It will have eyelets for mounting. The robust material means it should be a wonderful astronomical image banner for your venue for years to come. If we are unable to send you a canvas, we can also make the file available for local display or printing.
    3. the chance to learn about the latest astronomical news from the world’s most productive ground-based observatory, from an ESO representative speaking your language, who will attend the event. The travel and subsistence costs of the speaker will be covered by ESO.
  2. ESO will offer support in promoting the Organisers’ event via our outreach channels.
  3. ESO will connect Organisers to our other local outreach partners (if available).
  4. Organisers will be able to attract media to their venue and generate media coverage for the event and their venue.
  5. Venues may take the opportunity to also invite VIPs and other local decision-makers, to raise their profile.
  6. Venues may charge an entrance fee to the event to recover expenses or make a profit.
  7. Bulk orders of merchandise sold at or close to cost price will be offered to the Organisers. By selling these souvenir items to visitors at a profit (see our recommended retail prices in the ESO shop), organisers can further offset their costs. These items include:
    1. The ESO 50th anniversary documentary, “Europe to the Stars” on DVD (in cardboard cover or boxed) and Blu-ray (bulk orders available for shipping on 31 August 2012)
    2. The ESO 50th anniversary coffee-table book, “Europe to the Stars” (bulk orders available for shipping by 14 September 2012)
    3. The ESO 50th anniversary history book, “The Jewel on the Mountaintop” (bulk orders available for shipping by 14 September 2012)
    4. ESO postcards, posters, stickers, and more
  8. Organisers may arrange public showings of the anniversary movie “Europe to the Stars” at no cost to themselves. Subtitles in multiple languages will be available, and we welcome volunteers to help with translations (see below for details).
  9. Organisers may also join our Awesome Universe anniversary exhibition campaign, thus embedding their 5 October 2012 event within a longer exhibition of visually stunning images, showcasing celestial objects seen by ESO’s observatories, as well as beautiful images of the observatories themselves.
  10. Organisers may choose to include "local extras" such as additional material, public talks, or other activities.

What ESO cannot offer:

  • Any additional financial support or sponsorship.
  • Local organisation, or securing a venue.
  • Production of local promotional material.

What organisers commit to doing:

  • Identify and make all necessary arrangements to book an appropriate venue.
  • Make the (relatively simple) local arrangements if needed to implement the live link to Paranal, following instructions from ESO regarding the technical specifications.
  • Find necessary additional financial support for the costs of the event, possibly through the sale of entrance tickets, sale of products, sponsorships, advertising etc.
  • Promote the event locally.
  • Act as a liaison between ESO and the venue, if they do not represent the venue themselves.

Programme for events on 5 October 2012

We provide here a suggested provisional programme for the coordinated events on 5 October 2012. We will webcast a stream showing the live observations from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Cerro Paranal. This will be a unique outreach opportunity for your audiences! Naturally, the observations must happen during the night in Chile, which fixes the time of day for the event. You are of course free to build a different programme around the live streaming (for example with other activities later in the day), but the live link for the observations must take place in the morning in Europe. Times are given in UT and CEST:

  • 08:00 UT / 10:00 CEST:
    Introduction by representative of your venue to your audience (this event is an excellent opportunity to invite local media and VIPs).
  • 08:15 UT / 10:15 CEST:
    Screening of excerpt from "Europe to the Stars -- ESO’s First 50 Years of Exploring the Southern Sky".
  • 08:30 UT / 10:30 CEST:
    Presentation by ESO speaker at your venue: introduction to ESO and the VLT, before going live to Paranal.
  • 09:00 UT / 11:00 CEST:
    Start of live link to VLT. Information about the telescope, as well as live observations. Note: the language of the stream will be English.
  • 10:00 UT / 12:00 CEST:
    End of live link, followed by Q&A session with ESO speaker at your venue.
  • 10:30 UT / 12:30 CEST:
    End of event, or other local activities at your venue.

We will be streaming additional segments during the day, until around 18:00 CEST (16:00 UT). We will talk to an astronomer outside on the Paranal mountaintop after sunrise in Chile, with a wonderful view of the telescopes. There will also be talks, competitions, and other information from ESO Headquarters in Garching bei München. We will take questions from the public via channels such as email and Twitter. The stream will also be available for playback on demand later in the day, or at a later date, so you can still show it if your event is in the evening. A full programme will follow shortly. The main language of the stream will be English, but we aim to include some segments in other languages. The stream will be made available to the public through, with associated photos and videos. For event venues, we will also provide an alternative stream in case of technical problems.

Selection of venues:

As the number of events we can support is limited, prospective organisers should apply to join the ESO 50th Anniversary events through the application form.

We plan to select and provide support to an event in each ESO member state, and possibly for additional events in member states, or in other countries, as resources allow. The criteria used when deciding which applications to accept include:

  • Whether the venue is in an ESO member state
  • The location of the venue within the country (e.g. the capital city)
  • The size and nature of the venue
  • The estimated number of participants
  • Any "local extras" that you will include in the exhibition (such as other material, public talks, activities)
  • Any links with members of the ESO Science Outreach Network, or ESO Outreach Partner Organisations.
  • Previous experience in hosting such events and/or collaborating with ESO

How to get involved?

So, you’ve decided to host an ESO 50th Anniversary event? Welcome! Here are the most important steps to remember:

  1. Find a venue and coordinate with them (if you do not represent a venue yourself).
  2. Apply by the deadline of 1 August 2012 (the sooner the better).
  3. Decide on what extra activities you wish to add to your event.
  4. Identify any necessary additional funding sources.
  5. Place bulk orders for merchandise. To guarantee the bulk prices, place orders by the deadline of 1 July 2012 through the ESOshop.
  6. Decide whether you will also participate in our Awesome Universe exhibition campaign.
  7. Promote your exhibition/event locally, and contact ESO for help publicising it through our own outreach channels.

Important dates

  • 1 June 2012: Deadline for orders for merchandise at the bulk prices. We may not be able to fulfil later orders, or may not be able to provide the same bulk prices.
  • 1 August 2012: Latest date to apply to join the 5 October 2012 ESO Anniversary events.
  • By 15 August 2012: Successful applicants notified.
  • By 14 September 2012: Shipping date for bulk orders of the Awesome Universe exhibition catalogue, the ESO 50th anniversary documentary on DVD and Blu-ray, the ESO 50th anniversary coffee-table book, and the ESO 50th anniversary history book.
  • Friday 5 October 2012: Date of anniversary events.
  • See the Awesome Universe pages for other important dates relating to that campaign.

Find out more

If you wish to receive timely information about ESO’s anniversary events, you can subscribe to the esoevents mailing list. You will also be subscribed if you register an exhibition or event.
If you have any other questions, please contact

Bulk prices for ordering merchandise

For a list of bulk prices available for the supporting outreach merchandise please go here.
You may place your order through the ESOshop.

Visual identity

Organisers wishing to produce their own promotional materials should use the official ESO anniversary logo, which is available here:

  • ESO 50th Anniversary Logo:

Organisers must not modify the logo (except for possible use in monochrome), and must keep the proportions of the logos correct when changing their sizes.

Documentation, forms, and other resources


  • The application form
  • Place bulk orders for merchandise through the ESOshop

Other resources:

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