Discoveries in the Southern Sky: ESO Exhibition now at "Microcosm"
9 April 1990
Paris, Brussels, Vienna and Copenhagen were some of the stations for ESO's travelling astronomy exhibition. Now this exhibition can be seen for the first time in Switzerland, where CERN's MICROCOSM exhibition has opened its doors for a detailed view at the World of stars and galaxies.
In 1980, two divisions of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the Telescope Project Division and the Science Division, left the CERN premises and Switzerland to join ESO's administration at the new ESO Headquarters building in Garching near Munich.
Now, a decade later, ESO "returns" to Geneva and CERN with its beautiful exhibition "Discoveries in the Southern Sky". It has been installed in the MICROCOSM building at CERN in which CERN is setting up its new, permanent exhibition. It is planned to show here a series of special exhibitions; the first of these is the ESO exhibition.
Like CERN, its sister organisation, ESO is a European organisation. At this time ESO has eight member countries, including Switzerland; more countries have expressed interest in joining. ESO operates the La Silla Observatory, one of the largest in the world. It is located 600 km north of Santiago de Chile in the dry Atacama desert. Here, between the Pacific Ocean and the majestic Andes mountain range, ESO operates 14 optical telescopes up to 3.6 metres diameter and also a 15 m sub-millimeter radio telescope.
The telescope park includes the newly commissioned 3.5 metre New Technology Telescope (NTT), which is considered the world's best optical telescope. It was built during the past eight years, and it was financed through the entry fee paid by Switzerland and Italy as they joined ESO in 1982. La Silla is also the home of a 0.7-metre telescope owned by Observatoire de Geneve.
Large photographs, models and videos show this remote but fascinating research base and also present some of the most exciting discoveries made at ESO. Examples are the violent birth of a new star in our own Galaxy, the glimpse of a giant star-explosion in a galaxy 5000 million light years away and unprecedented views of the mysterious quasars.
The exhibition features an eight metre long photographic panorama of the Milky Way Galaxy. It shows many well-known celestial objects and configurations, like the famous Southern Cross, the dark Coalsack Nebula, the huge Summer Triangle, the bright Andromeda Galaxy and the complex Magellanic Clouds.
ESO's new 16-metre Very Large Telescope project is presented in some detail. When this 400 million DM super telescope goes into operation by the end of the current decade, Europe's astronomers will have at their disposal the largest optical telescope in the world. It will enable them to make important discoveries and to write new chapters in the history of astronomy.
The ESO exhibition is jointly organised by ESO, CERN and the Observatoire de Geneve and will remain open until the end of the summer.
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