1953: Conversations con-cerning the constitutionof a European SouthernObservatory start.1962: ESO is established.1963: Agreement betweenESO and the Governmentof Chile, the
) to establish anobservatory in Chile, issigned.1964: La Silla is selectedas the location of the newobservatory.
1966: First light of the rst
ESO 1-metre telescope.1969: Inauguration of theLa Silla Observatoryby President Eduardo FreiMontalva.
ESO operates three major observatories in Chile, providingastronomers in the ESO Member States and Chile with state-of-the-art observing facilities that can address a wide rangeof open questions in science.
ESO’s rst observatory, La Silla, near La Serena, now hosts
some of the world’s most powerful facilities for the discoveryof planets outside the Solar System. These include theHARPS spectrograph at the 3.6-metre telescope, and theSwiss 1.2-metre Leonhard Euler Telescope, while the NewTechnology Telescope is still one of the best 4-metre-classtelescopes in the southern hemisphere. La Silla also hostsseveral other telescopes operated by institutes from the ESOMember States.On Cerro Paranal, near Antofagasta, the Very Large Tele-scope (VLT) has reached maturity, with a full complement of
rst generation instruments that offer the broadest choice
of observational capabilities at any current or planned obser-vatory. The second generation of instruments is currentlybeing installed and will soon be completed. Light from the VLT’s Unit Telescopes and the movable Auxiliary Telescopescan be combined coherently to form an interferometer, yield-ing an unprecedented combination of sharpness and sensi-tivity in the infrared part of the spectrum. The Paranal Obser-vatory also hosts two of the world’s most powerful dedicatedimaging survey telescopes — VISTA and the VST. Thisimpressive suite of telescopes has made Paranal the mostadvanced and productive ground-based astronomical facilityin the world.The Chajnantor Plateau, located at 5000 metres abovesea level near San Pedro de Atacama, offers excellent condi-tions for submillimetre-wavelength astronomy. The AtacamaLarge Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) of 66 antennasis already providing uniquely detailed views of the cold Uni-verse, revealing planet-forming discs around other stars,looking back to the youthful Universe when early galaxies
were in the process of forming their rst generations of stars,
and much more. Also at Chajnantor, the APEX radio tele-scope combines extremely sensitive receivers with pioneer-ing instrumantation.
The glowing jumble of gas clouds visible inthis image make up a huge stellar nurserynicknamed the Prawn Nebula. Taken usingthe VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’sParanal Observatory in Chile, this may wellbe the sharpest picture ever taken of thisobject. It shows clumps of hot new-bornstars nestled in among the clouds thatmake up the nebula.