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ESO And Chile Celebrate 10 Years Of Productive Scientific Collaboration

10th Anniversary of the creation of the ESO-Chile Joint Committee Fund for the development of astronomy and scientific culture.

ESO and the Government of Chile launched today the book “10 Years xploring the Universe”, written by the beneficiaries of the ESO-Chile Joint Committee. This annual fund provides grants for individual Chilean scientists, research infrastructures, scientific congresses, workshops for science teachers and astronomy outreach programmes for the public.

In a ceremony held in Santiago on 19 June 2006, the European rganisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) and the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs marked the 10th Anniversary of the Supplementary Agreement, which granted to Chilean astronomers up to 10 percent of the total observing time on ESO telescopes. This agreement also established an annual fund for the development of astronomy, managed by the so- called “ESO-Chile Joint Committee”.

The celebration event was hosted by ESO Director General, Dr. Catherine Cesarsky, and the Director of Special Policy for the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Luis Winter. “ESO’s commitment is, and always will be, to promote astronomy and scientific knowledge in the country hosting our observatories”, said ESO Director General, Dr. Catherine Cesarsky. “We hope Chile and Europe will continue with great achievements in this fascinating joint adventure, the exploration of the universe”.

On behalf of the Government of Chile, Ambassador Luis Winter outlined the historical importance of the Supplementary Agreement, ratified by the Chilean Congress in 1996.

“Such is the magnitude of ESO-Chile Joint Committee that, only in 2005, this annual fund represented 8 percent of all financing sources for Chilean astronomy, including those from Government and universities”, Ambassador Winter said.

The ESO Representative and Head of Science in Chile, Dr. Felix Mirabel, and the appointed Chilean astronomer for the ESO-Chile Joint Committee, Dr. Leonardo Bronfman, also took part in the ceremony, along with ambassadors in Chile of ESO members States, and representatives of the Chilean government and the scientific community.

To review the impact of the numerous projects financed over the last decade, ESO presented the book “10 Years Exploring the Universe”, based on the reports of the beneficiaries of the ESO- Chile fund.

Since the beginning, the ESO-Chile fund has granted over 2.5 million euros to finance post-doc and astronomy professors for main Chilean universities, development of research infrastructure, organisation of scientific congresses, workshops for science teachers, and astronomy outreach programmes for the public.

In addition to the 400,000 euros given annually by ESO to the ESO-Chile Joint Committee, around 550,000 euros are granted every year to finance regional collaboration programmes, fellowships for students in Chilean universities, and the development of radio astronomy through the ALMA-Chile Committee.

In total, apart form the 10 percent of the observing time at all ESO telescopes, ESO contributes annually with 950,000 euros for the promotion of astronomy and scientific culture in Chile.

The growth of astronomy and related sciences in Chile in the last years has been outstanding. According to a study by the Chilean Academy of Science in 2005, the number of astronomers has doubled over the last 20 years, there has been an 8-fold increase in the number of scientific publications . It is gratifying to see that 100 percent of the observing time granted by international observatories in Chile is actually used by the national community.

The same study stated that astronomy could be the first scientific discipline in Chile with the standards of a developed country, with additional benefits in terms of technological improvement and growth of human resources.

Henri Boffin | alfa
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