Today, at a ceremony in Canberra, Australia, an arrangement has been signed to begin a ten-year strategic partnership between ESO and Australia. The partnership will further strengthen ESO's programme, both scientifically and technically, and will give Australian astronomers and industry access to the La Silla Paranal Observatory. It may also be the first step towards Australia becoming an ESO Member State.
In May 2017 the Australian Government announced its intentions to negotiate a strategic partnership with ESO in order to give Australian astronomers access to ESO's state-of-the-art research infrastructure. This partnership has now been formalised and will begin immediately. It means that Australia will financially contribute to ESO for ten years, with the potential of then obtaining full membership. The proposed partnership was unanimously approved by the ESO Council.
The signature ceremony was held at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, during the annual meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia. Introductions were made by Nobel Laureate and ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt, and were followed by speeches from ESO's Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, and the Australian Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos, who then together signed the arrangement. The ceremony was attended by senior ESO representatives, members of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and distinguished guests.
Senator Arthur Sinodinos said: "This important partnership with a world-class organisation, such as the European Southern Observatory, will allow Australia to maintain its research excellence in this era of global astronomy, and it provides crucial opportunities for Australian influence and technical and scientific input, stimulating international research and industry collaborations."
"Today we sign a strategic arrangement that will give Australian astronomers -- as well as technical institutes and industries -- access to the La Silla Paranal Observatory," added ESO Director General Tim de Zeeuw. "An association between Australia and ESO has been a goal for me for more than 20 years, and I am very pleased that it is now becoming a reality."
This partnership will allow Australian astronomers to participate in all activities relating to ESO's La Silla Paranal Observatory facilities -- specifically, the Very Large Telescope, the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, VISTA, VST, the ESO 3.6-metre telescope, and the New Technology Telescope. The partnership will also open up opportunities for Australian scientists and industry to collaborate with ESO Member State institutions on upcoming instruments at these observatories.
Australia's expertise in instrumentation, including advanced adaptive optics and fibre-optic technology, is ideally matched with ESO's instrumentation programme. In turn, Australia will gain access to industrial, instrumentation and scientific opportunities at the La Silla Paranal Observatory, essentially being considered a Member State for all matters relating to these facilities. The results of such collaborations are eagerly anticipated by the ESO community.
Tim de Zeeuw further comments: "Australia's contributions to the partnership will strengthen ESO, and ESO's facilities will allow Australian astronomers to make many discoveries and develop the next generation of high-tech instrumentation to the benefit of science and technology worldwide. I believe that this is also a key step towards full membership of ESO in due course."
Australia has a long and rich history of internationally acclaimed astronomical research. Its already very active and successful astronomical community will undoubtedly thrive with long-term access to ESO's cutting-edge facilities. This European-Australian collaboration will lead to fundamental new advances in science and technology that neither could hope to achieve alone.
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, the Czech Republic, 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".
* Tim de Zeeuw's speech at the signing ceremony - https:/
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