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  • Brazil to Join the ESO
Jan 2011
BRASILIA, Brazil, Jan. 4, 2011 — The Brazilian minister of science and technology, Sergio Machado Rezende, and the director general of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), Tim de Zeeuw, recently signed a formal accession agreement aiming to make Brazil a member state of the ESO. Brazil will become the fifteenth member state and the first from outside Europe. Because the agreement means accession to an international convention, the agreement must now be submitted to the Brazilian Parliament for ratification. The signing of the agreement followed the unanimous approval by the ESO Council during an extraordinary meeting on Dec. 21, 2010.

"Joining ESO will give new impetus to the development of science, technology and innovation in Brazil as part of the considerable efforts our government is making to keep the country advancing in these strategic areas," Rezende said.

The ESO has a long history of successful involvement with South America, ever since Chile was selected as the best site for its observatories in 1963. Until now, however, no non-European country has joined ESO as a member state.

"The membership of Brazil will give the vibrant Brazilian astronomical community full access to the most productive observatory in the world and open up opportunities for Brazilian high-tech industry to contribute to the European Extremely Large Telescope project. It will also bring new resources and skills to the organization at the right time for them to make a major contribution to this exciting project," de Zeeuw said.

The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) telescope design phase was recently completed, and a major review was conducted where every aspect of this large project was scrutinized by an international panel of independent experts. The panel found that the E-ELT project is technically ready to enter the construction phase. The go-ahead for E-ELT construction is planned for 2011 and, when operations start early in the next decade, European, Brazilian and Chilean astronomers will have access to this giant telescope.

The president of ESO's governing body, the Council, Laurent Vigroux, concluded: "Astronomers in Brazil will benefit from collaborating with European colleagues, and naturally from having observing time at ESO's world-class observatories at La Silla and Paranal, as well as on ALMA, which ESO is constructing with its international partners."

Once Brazil ratifies its membership, the ESO member states will include Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

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The scientific observation of celestial radiation that has reached the vicinity of Earth, and the interpretation of these observations to determine the characteristics of the extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that have emitted the radiation.
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