Press Release

Xavier Barcons Starts as New ESO Director General

1 September 2017

On 1 September 2017, Xavier Barcons became ESO’s eighth Director General, succeeding Tim de Zeeuw who has served since 2007. Barcons begins his tenure at an exciting time for ESO. Construction of the Extremely Large Telescope is progressing rapidly and it is set to see first light in 2024.

ESO’s new Director General Xavier Barcons has a wealth of experience in both the academic world and international organisations. He has served ESO in many different roles for over 10 years, including as ESO Council President from 2012–2014. He contributed significantly to several major ESO projects including the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which was approved during his period as ESO Council President.

During his tenure, Xavier Barcons plans to continue to push towards the ultimate goal of enabling exciting scientific discoveries by astronomers in ESO’s Member States, confident that ESO is ready to meet the challenges of technological and observational advances of the future.

Astronomy is one of the most lively sciences, its objectives changing every day,” said Barcons. “ESO is a unique organisation in the astronomical world and is well equipped to respond to these changes.

With ESO successfully running or supporting dozens of telescopes with numerous instruments, the new Director General anticipates continuing to support La Silla, Paranal, APEX and ALMA, while moving forward with the ELT.

I want to thank Tim de Zeeuw and the entire ESO staff for helping to bring ESO into the very strong position it now holds as the most productive ground-based observatory in the world,” said Xavier Barcons.“I’m honoured to take up this position, but I realise this is a very important step in my life. I am looking forward to taking on the responsibility of the Director General role and responding to the challenges it presents.

He continues “We will concentrate on building and delivering the ELT, which will be the largest optical telescope in the world, and keep the La Silla–Paranal and ALMA observatories operational and updated as our current workhorses, to ensure the remain very much at the forefront of worldwide astronomical infrastructures. We expect ever more spectacular multi-wavelength observations as we continue to push the technological boundaries with our current and future telescopes here at ESO.

ESO’s new Director General gives his perspective on ESO and his new position in the latest ESOcast and writes about the importance of ESO as a multi-wavelength observatory in the ESOblog.

More information

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czechia, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. 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 and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.



Lars Lindberg Christensen
Head of ESO ePOD
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
Cell: +49 173 3872 621

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About the Release

Release No.:eso1728
Name:ESO Director General
Type:Unspecified : People : Scientist


Xavier Barcons starts as Director General of ESO
Xavier Barcons starts as Director General of ESO


ESOcast 125: Q&A with ESO's Incoming Director General Xavier Barcons — Taking up duty at ESO
ESOcast 125: Q&A with ESO's Incoming Director General Xavier Barcons — Taking up duty at ESO