Poland's accession agreement was signed today in Warsaw, Poland, by Minister Kolarska-Bobińska and ESO's Director General Tim de Zeeuw, in the presence of other senior officials from Poland and ESO. Since this agreement means accession to an international treaty, it must now be submitted to the Polish Parliament for ratification. The signing of the agreement followed its unanimous approval by the ESO Council during an extraordinary meeting on 8 October 2014.
"We're very excited to have our membership of ESO on the horizon," says Minister Kolarska-Bobińska. "This will open up many future opportunities for us, and drive Polish industry, science and technology forward. This will be the beginning of a fantastic partnership for European astronomy and will also strengthen our links with Chile, with whom we are already cooperating intensively, for instance, in the mining industry -- another field where Chile's natural conditions are outstanding."
The connection between ESO and Poland extends beyond their respective astronomical communities. For example, the most recent ESO Industry Day was hosted in Warsaw in January 2013. This event gave ESO the chance to inform Polish industry about ESO's current facilities and its future plans, including the construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).
"We are looking forward to having Poland as a member of our organisation," says ESO's Director General Tim de Zeeuw. "Poland will bring a strong astronomical community, which will strengthen the expertise across the ESO Member States, for example in the time-series astronomy. Poland will gain access to some of the best telescopes and observatories in the world, including the Very Large Telescope on Paranal, ALMA at Chajnantor and, in the coming decade, also the European Extremely Large Telescope on Armazones which will be a tremendous step forward. Poland can now be part of the E-ELT construction effort."
Poland, the homeland of Nicolaus Copernicus, the astronomer who proposed that the Sun and not the Earth is at the centre of the Solar System, has a rich tradition in astronomy extending to the present. "Polish astronomers have contributed greatly to astronomical research in recent years, and with our accession to ESO this will only continue to grow," says Minister Kolarska-Bobińska.
After ratification of Poland's membership of ESO, the ESO Member States will be Austria, Belgium, Brazil (pending ratification), the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
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 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 two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world's largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning the 39-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky".