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Ireland joins European Southern Observatory

27 Sep 2018

After centuries of astronomical endeavors, Ireland is set to become 16th member state of ESO.

Ireland has this week signed an agreement to join the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which claims to be the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. As a result, Irish astronomers are set to gain access to the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes.

John Halligan T.D., Irish Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development and Xavier Barcons, Director General of ESO formally signed the agreement in Dublin, with the ESO stating, “We are looking forward to welcoming Ireland and will work with the nation’s astronomers and industry to advance the cutting edge of astronomy.”

Barcons commented “We are delighted to welcome Ireland as the newest member of our organisation. Ireland’s mature and thriving astronomical community will add to the broad variety of expertise in the ESO Member States, strengthening ESO’s position at the forefront of global astronomy.


“Irish astronomers will gain access to a suite of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes and will have the opportunity to be part of the construction of the next generation of ESO instruments in partnership with other ESO Member States. We are also very much looking forward to working with Irish industrial partners to build and operate ESO’s state-of-the-art telescopes.”

ESO’s world-class suite of telescopes and instruments, included the Very Large Telescope on Paranal and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) at Chajnantor. Ireland will now have the opportunity to contribute to the construction of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) in coming years.

By joining ESO, Ireland adds to its already rich astronomical history, which stretches back centuries. For several decades in the 19th century, Ireland hosted the world’s largest telescope — the Leviathan of Parsonstown — a 1.8-meter reflecting telescope at Birr Castle (whose grounds are now home to I-LOFAR, part of a Europe-wide low-frequency radio telescope).

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