eso1112 — Organisation Release
President of Czech Republic visits ESO's Paranal Observatory
7 April 2011
On 6 April 2011, the ESO Paranal Observatory was honoured with a visit from the President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus, and his wife Livia Klausová, who also took the opportunity to admire Cerro Armazones, the future site of the planned E-ELT.
The distinguished visitor was shown the technical installations at the observatory, and was present when the dome of one of the four 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes of ESO’s Very Large Telescope opened for a night’s observing at Cerro Paranal, the world’s most advanced visible-light observatory.
“I'm delighted to welcome President Klaus to the Paranal Observatory and to show him first-hand the world-leading astronomical facility that ESO has designed, has built, and operates for European astronomy,” said ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw.
President Klaus replied, “I am very impressed by the remarkable technology that ESO has built here in the heart of the desert. Czech astronomers are already making good use of these facilities and we look forward to having Czech industry and its scientific community contribute to the future E-ELT.”
From the VLT platform, the President had the opportunity to admire Cerro Armazones as well as other spectacular views of Chile’s Atacama Desert surrounding Paranal. Adjacent to Cerro Paranal, Armazones has been chosen as the site for the future E-ELT (see eso1018). ESO is seeking approval from its governing bodies by the end of 2011 for the go-ahead for the 1-billion euro E-ELT. Construction is expected to begin in 2012 and the start of operations is planned for early in the next decade.
President Klaus was accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech Ambassador in Chile, Zdenek Kubánek, dignitaries of the government, and a Czech industrial delegation. The group was hosted at Paranal by the ESO Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, the ESO Representative in Chile, Massimo Tarenghi, the Director of Operations, Andreas Kaufer, and Jan Palous, Czech representative at the ESO Council.
After the opening of the telescopes, President Klaus had the opportunity to enjoy the spectacular sunset over the Pacific Ocean from the VLT platform. Then he visited the VLT control room, which operates the four Unit Telescopes and the VLT Interferometer (VLTI). Here, the President took part in the start of observations from the console of one of the VLT Unit telescopes.
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 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, 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”.
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