Austria Joins the European Southern Observatory - ad Astra per Aspera

bridges vol. 18, July 2008 / OpEds & Commentaries

by Rudof Albrecht, Paul Beck , Gernot Groemer, and Norbert Frischauf

esologo.jpg“Ad Astra per Aspera” – They say that the road to the stars is rough. This old Latin proverb could not be truer than for Austria’s long journey to finally accede to the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in summer 2008. After the decision by the Austrian federal government to join ESO (on April 23, 2008), the ESO council also gave the green light on June 4, 2008. Now the only hurdle is the ratification by the Austrian parliament. When this ratification is complete, it will mark the successful ending of a 30-year-long astronomical zigzag course to join one – if not the – world-class astronomical organization.

At this point, we will stop for a moment and invite you join us in looking at this scientific thriller. We will do this from a variety of perspectives to shed light on the different questions, misunderstandings, and motivations that have emerged over the last 30 years. Our analysis will be three-dimensional, just like space is. With the help of an Austrian working at ESO, we will provide an inside-out perspective, trying to describe ESO in its fundamentals, what it does, and how it works. Next, we will add an outside-in viewpoint, offered by an Austrian astronomer who will describe why he considers the Austrian accession to ESO an important scientific step. And finally we will finish up by taking a look into the future, offered by an Austrian student who will realize his expectations as a student of astronomy.

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