Awesome Universe — the Cosmos through the eyes of the European Southern Observatory

For Exhibitors/Organisers

Concept overview

"Awesome Universe" is an international campaign of public exhibitions during 2012–2013 that celebrates 50 years of Europe’s quest to explore the southern sky, marking the 50th anniversary of the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

The year 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 year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the selection of Chile as the site for ESO’s first observatory and the signature of the agreement between Chile and ESO, which took place on 7 November 1963.

The exhibition is intended as a partnership between ESO and 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.

To see the currently registered Awesome Universe venues, please check our list on the venue page.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is a gallery of 50 visually stunning images with captions, showcasing celestial objects such as galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters as seen by ESO’s observatories — home to the world’s most advanced ground-based telescopes — as well as beautiful images of the observatories themselves, which are located in some of the most unusual places on Earth. In addition, two exhibition panels introduce ESO itself, and two panels present the highlights of ESO's 50-year history, with many important milestones in European astronomy.

A range of merchandise will accompany the exhibition, such as: a beautifully illustrated catalogue of the exhibition; 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.

ESO will make the material for the exhibition available in electronic format so that Organisers can download and produce the images, captions, and exhibition panels locally, in whichever way they prefer. They can also translate the texts into their own language, if needed. We will also provide a reference specification for the images and panels, and the opportunity to join a group order to get the images produced in the best possible quality at the best possible price.

Details of the partnership

Benefits for Organisers

  1. Organisers will be able to present a beautiful and stunning set of astronomical images and photographs of observatory sites, and join in celebrations of the European Southern Observatory’s 50th Anniversary. The visual appeal of the images will attract an audience of astronomy fans and also the wider public to the venue. The gallery can also form the centrepiece of a broader exhibition, with other local activities and content. ESO will provide the following content in electronic format:
    • 50 world-class images of astronomical objects seen by ESO telescopes, and the telescopes and observatory sites themselves.
    • 50 short caption texts in English describing the images.
    • 2 exhibition panels in English, in editable format (Adobe InDesign CS5) with text and images, presenting the highlights of ESO's 50-year history, with many important milestones in European astronomy.
    • 2 exhibition panels in electronic, editable format (Adobe InDesign CS5) with text and images, introducing the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
  2. Organisers may charge an entrance fee to the exhibition to recover expenses or make a profit.
  3. ESO will provide a number of grants, of approximately €1000 per event to help with the production costs. Due to our finite resources, we are able to do so only for a limited number of venues (see below for the selection criteria).
  4. 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 beautifully illustrated Awesome Universe exhibition catalogue (bulk orders available for shipping by 1 August 2012)
    2. 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)
    3. The ESO 50th anniversary coffee-table book, “Europe to the Stars” (bulk orders available for shipping by 14 September 2012)
    4. The ESO 50th anniversary history book, “The Jewel on the Mountaintop” (bulk orders available for shipping by 14 September 2012)
    5. ESO postcards, posters, stickers, and more
  5. 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).
  6. For those organisers who want the highest quality exhibition at the lowest possible cost, ESO is coordinating a group order for the production of state-of-the-art gallery images, to get the best possible prices. We encourage as many organisers as possible to participate. For details, see below under “Group order”.
  7. ESO will also provide reference specifications for the production of the panels and gallery images, with example suppliers, and a suggested design for the exhibition, which can be modified according to Organisers’ available space and resources.
  8. Organisers may reuse the images for travelling exhibitions or other events for as long as they wish.
  9. Organisers may sell the gallery images after the exhibition(s) to recover expenses. Their market value (estimated total of €15000-€25000) is several times the production price (see section below).
  10. Organisers may also purchase smaller versions of the high quality gallery images for sale as souvenirs, as part of the group order.
  11. ESO will offer support in promoting the Organisers’ event via our outreach channels.
  12. ESO will connect Organisers to our other local outreach partners (if available).
  13. For exhibitions which include the date of 5 October 2012, organisers are invited to join the international celebrations of the actual “birthday” of ESO. We plan to offer representatives to give public outreach talks about ESO (subject to availability), and are investigating the possibility for live links to the ESO Very Large Telescope on Cerro Paranal in Chile. More details will be made available on a separate webpage.

What ESO cannot offer

  • Print the gallery images for you in any other way than described in the group order section.
  • Print the captions for you and/or ship them to you.
  • Print the exhibition panels for you and/or ship them to you.
  • Offer further financial support or find sponsors for you.
  • Find a local venue or take care of the local organisation.
  • Produce local promotional material.
  • Translate texts, or edit the files to layout translated material for you.
  • Replace images in the group order, although you may order a subset of the images.

What Organisers commit to doing:

  • Identify and make all necessary arrangements to book an appropriate venue.
  • Arrange the production of the gallery images and exhibition panels, translation and layout of texts if necessary, the setup and breakdown of the exhibition, and all other local organisation (or arrange with the venue to do this). See below under “Group order” for a recommended way to get high-quality gallery images at preferential prices.
  • Include the Credit lines for each image, for example as part of the caption information in the gallery, and in any additional material produced. This is a requirement of the licensing conditions for the images. The Credit information can be found on the webpage for each image, together with the caption text.
  • Find necessary additional financial support for the costs of the exhibition, possibly through the sale of entrance tickets, sale of exhibition products, sponsorships, advertising etc.
  • Promote the exhibition locally.
  • Act as a liaison between ESO and the venue, if they do not represent the venue themselves.

Important notes:

  • If Organisers have limited space or resources, they are welcome to use only a selection of the panels and/or images we make available
  • They may also arrange the physical production of your panels and/or images in a different way from that described in the suggested specifications.
  • They may also wish to include "local extras" such as additional material, public talks, or other activities.

Join our group order for gallery images

We invite organisers to join our group order for gallery images, produced according to the reference specifications below.

At a cost price of €5500 (excluding shipping) (or €4500 with a possible €1000 grant from ESO — see below), you will receive a set of all 50 spectacular state-of-the-art gallery images, printed using a laser photographic process, mounted on a solid aluminium backing and sealed with a glossy UV-protective film. The total size of the 50 images is 56 square metres. The larger dimension (width or height) of each image is 120cm. The images are solid and sturdy, although care should be taken to protect the glossy surface from abrasion.

You may, at the same time, order copies of the images in smaller sizes, suitable for general sale as souvenirs. Group order prices are available in this list, with dimensions and recommended retail prices shown in the ESO shop.

These prices represents a large discount on the standard production price, and especially on the typical retail prices. See for example a similar product from the LUMAS galleries:, priced at over €500 per square metre, and also the smaller size images sold in the ESO shop:

Shipping, which depends on your destination, is not included in the prices above, and will need to be paid by you. Details will appear here soon.

To place your order, fill in the section when registering your event. We will collect group orders until Friday 1 June 2012. Orders will be shipped directly from the supplier in exclusive custom-made art-secure packaging, and will arrive (within Europe) by 30 June 2012.

For more information on the state-of-the-art production process, see (select the option “Original photo print on aluminium backing”).

Note: the preferential prices for this group order depend on a large enough combined order.

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.

How to download the content

The gallery images

The full list of images is available as a spreadsheet.

The TIFF images can be download from the URLs in column B ("URL in image gallery") in the spreadsheet. Select the "Fullsize original" link in the right-hand column of each webpage. You can also get an overview of the gallery images at the following link:

The recommended dimensions for the gallery-size images (which will apply for the group order) are listed in columns D and E in the spreadsheet under "Specifications for gallery-size images".

The gallery image captions and credits

The image titles, captions and credits can be found from the URLs in column C ("URL in mounted images product list") in the spreadsheet, which link to pages in our "mounted images" product list. Note that these captions are shorter captions than in the main image gallery, so we recommend you use these ones. You can also get an overview of them at the following link:

Important: you must include the "Credit:" lines for each image as part of your captions. You can find these by following the links in column C in the spreadsheet.

Translations of image captions

We list here links to translated versions of the captions, provided by other Awesome Universe exhibitors, whom we thank for sharing their work. Important: you must include the "Credit:" lines for each image as part of your captions, even if they are not included in the translated list below. You can find them by following the links in column C in the spreadsheet.

If you wish to translate the captions into other languages, please create a similar document and send your completed translations to so others can benefit from them.

The dimensions listed on the individual "mounted images" product pages are those of the smaller souvenir-size images, which can also be ordered as part of the group order. These dimensions are also listed in columns G and H in the spreadsheet under "Specifications for souvenir-size images".

The exhibition panels

The exhibition panels are available in editable format (Adobe InDesign CS5), at the following URLs:

If you produce translated versions of these panels, we encourage you to send us copies of the files for our archives.

Reference specifications for gallery images and exhibition panels

We provide the following reference specifications for the production of the panels and gallery images, with example suppliers. These can be modified, according to available space and resources. Other supplies and production techniques are available. We are not providing a reference specification for producing the image captions.

  • Example for printing gallery images:
    • WhiteWall original photo print on aluminium backing, with glossy UV-protective foil coating.
    • See (select the option “Original photo print on aluminium backing”).
    • Full details including dimensions are available on the spreadsheet.
    • If you would like to get the gallery images made according to these reference specifications at a preferential price, join our group order (above).
  • Example for printing exhibition panels


Although we are unable to provide physical exhibition panels, we plan to offer a number of grants to support the cost of producing an exhibition. These will cover a sum of approximately €1000 each. We encourage Organisers to seek additional funding if necessary, but hope that these grants will cover at least part of the costs.

We plan to provide at least one grant to an exhibition in each ESO member state, and grants for other venues may be available. The criteria used when deciding which to support 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
  • The duration of the exhibition
  • 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 join the “Awesome Universe” campaign? 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. Decide on exhibition start and end dates (you’ll need this to register).
  3. Decide whether you will use all of the gallery images and exhibitions panels, or a subset of the material.
  4. Decide on your production method for the images, captions, and exhibitions (if possible, join the group order for the gallery images).
  5. Identify necessary funding sources (remember: you can also sell the gallery images afterwards, as with many art exhibitions).
  6. Register your exhibition! You can register your exhibition by completing the registration form. You can join our group order for gallery images, and/or apply for ESO financial support, at the time of registration using the same form.
  7. Requests for financial support, or to join the group order for gallery images (including smaller images), must be registered by the deadline of 1 June 2012. Exhibitions can still be registered after this date, but will not be eligible for financial support or the group order.
  8. If applicable, confirm your group order when ESO contacts you with the final details (deadline of 8 June 2012).
  9. Place bulk orders for merchandise. To guarantee the bulk prices, place orders by the deadline of 1 July 2012 through the ESOshop.
  10. Decide whether you will also participate in our 5 October 2012 “birthday” events, and if so, register via the anniversary events webpage.
  11. Promote your exhibition/event locally, and contact ESO for help publicising it through our own outreach channels.

Important dates

  • 1 June 2012: Deadline for requests for financial support, or to join the group order for gallery images (including smaller images).
  • 1 June 2012: Deadline for orders for merchandise (excluding gallery images) at the bulk prices. We may not be able to fulfil later orders, or may not be able to provide the same bulk prices.
  • 8 June 2012: Deadline for confirmation of group order by organisers, after receiving details from ESO.
  • 30 June 2012: Group order gallery images arrive (for destinations within Europe).
  • 1 August 2012: Register for participation in our 5 October 2012 “birthday” events (if applicable).
  • 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.

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

Visual identity

Organisers wishing to produce their own promotional materials should use the official “Awesome Universe” logo and ESO anniversary logo, which are available here:

  • Awesome Universe Logo:
  • ESO 50th Anniversary Logo:

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

Documentation, forms, and other resources


  • Unified registration form for any combination of:
    • Registering your event
    • Requesting ESO financial support
    • Joining our group order for WhiteWall images
  • Place bulk orders for merchandise through the ESOshop

Other resources: