Australia enters strategic partnership with ESO

Wednesday, 12 July, 2017

The Australian Government has signed a 10-year strategic partnership with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) — a 16-nation intergovernmental research organisation for ground-based astronomy.

The partnership will allow Australian astronomers to use the 8 m telescopes at ESO’s La Silla and Paranal Observatories in the Atacama Mountains of Chile, among the world’s best sites for optical astronomy.

This agreement answers calls from the Australian astronomy community over several years for long-term access to large optical-infrared telescopes, according to Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Arthur Sinodinos.

The partnership will not only benefit the research community but also create opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to tender for contracts ranging from heavy engineering, electrical and mechanical engineering to the design and development of precision optics, electronics, sensors and complex instrumentation.

This will stimulate commercialisation of innovative new astronomy technologies with likely spin-off applications in a wide range of areas like medicine, telecommunications and manufacturing.

The government will invest $129 million over 10 years in the partnership. Australia will financially contribute to ESO for 10 years, with the potential of then obtaining full membership. 

The director general of ESO, Professor Tim de Zeeuw, said the collaboration would lead to fundamental new advances in science and technology that neither could hope to achieve alone.

“Australia has a long and rich history of internationally acclaimed astronomical research. The already very active and successful astronomical community will undoubtedly thrive with long-term access to ESO’s cutting-edge facilities,” de Zeeuw said.

“Australia’s expertise in astronomical technology, including advanced adaptive optics and fibre-optics, is ideally matched with ESO’s instrumentation program. In turn, Australia will gain access to industrial, instrumentation and scientific opportunities at ESO’s La Silla Paranal Observatory.”

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