Tycho Brahe Prize 2010 Awarded to ESO Telescope Designer

21 Aprile 2010

The European Astronomical Society [1] announces that this year’s winner of its Tycho Brahe Prize is the British optical engineer Dr Raymond Wilson. The Tycho Brahe Prize is awarded annually in recognition of the development or exploitation of European instruments, or major discoveries based largely on such instruments. It carries a monetary reward of 6000 euros and is sponsored by the Klaus–Tschira foundation, based in Heidelberg, Germany. The prize will be awarded to Dr Wilson during the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (JENAM2010) [2] that will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, from 6–10 September 2010.

Dr Wilson has made contributions of the utmost importance to the technology of astronomical telescopes during the last two decades of the 20th century. His profound theoretical and practical knowledge of optics and his vision for achieving optical perfection led him to the concept of active optics, which revolutionised the world of large telescopes: all major telescopes are now built with this technology. With active optics the shape and the alignment of telescope mirrors are constantly monitored and automatically corrected, which leads to the best possible images. This concept was embodied first in the New Technology Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and was carried to its logical conclusion in the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), a telescope array with four individual 8.2-metre telescopes. Thanks to active optics, the consistently superb image quality of the VLT has made it the world’s most successful ground-based observatory and re-established Europe in a leadership position in observational optical astronomy.

Dr Wilson came to ESO in 1972 after 11 years as Head of the Design Department for telescopes at Zeiss Oberkochen. At ESO Dr Wilson founded and led the Optics and Telescopes Group. After his retirement in 1993 he worked tirelessly to prepare and update his monumental two-volume monograph Reflecting Telescope Optics, which has become a benchmark in the field. Moreover, he extended the two-mirror telescope designs to the three-, four-, and five-mirror designs that are now being explored in the next generation of extremely large telescopes, such as ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) project.


[1] The European Astronomical Society (EAS) was founded in 1990 as an association to contribute and promote the advancement of astronomy in Europe. In particular it is meant to deal with astronomical matters at a European level. It is a society of individual members, professional astronomers. The EAS is an organisation in which all European astronomers can be members independent of their field of work, or country of work or origin. The society offers a forum for discussion on all aspects of astronomical development in Europe and is the organisation that represents the interests of astronomers in discussions of Europe-wide developments. The current President of the European Astronomical Society is Prof. Joachim Krautter, Heidelberg, Germany; Vice-Presidents are Prof. Martin Huber, Zürich, Switzerland, and Prof. Jan Palouš, Prague, Czechia.

[2] Further information on the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (JENAM2010) can be found at the following URL:

More Information

ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. It is supported by 14 countries: Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and VISTA, the world’s largest survey telescope. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning a 42-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.



Lars Lindberg Christensen
Head of ESO ePOD
Garching, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
Cell: +49 173 387 2621

Prof. Elias Brinks
Secretary, European Astronomical Society
Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire, UK
Tel: +44 1707 286072
Cell: +44 1707 284185
Email: /

A proposito dell'annuncio



Raymond Wilson, recipient of the 2010 Kavli Prize
Raymond Wilson, recipient of the 2010 Kavli Prize