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Australia Forms Strategic Partnership with European Southern Observatory

July 11, 2017

The government of Australia has entered into a ten-year strategic partnership with the European Southern Observatory (ESO), an important intergovernmental astronomy organization in Germany.

The partnership will further strengthen ESO's program, both scientifically and technically, and will give Australian astronomers and industry access to the La Silla Paranal Observatory.

It may also be the first step towards Australia becoming an ESO Member State.

In May 2017 the Australian Government announced its intentions to negotiate a strategic partnership with ESO in order to give Australian astronomers access to ESO's state-of-the-art research infrastructure.

This partnership has now been formalized and will begin immediately.

It means that Australia will financially contribute to ESO for ten years, with the potential of then obtaining full membership.

The proposed partnership was unanimously approved by the ESO Council.

The signature ceremony was held at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, during the annual meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

Introductions were made by Nobel Laureate and ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt, and were followed by speeches from ESO's Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, and the Australian Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos, who then together signed the arrangement.

The ceremony was attended by senior ESO representatives, members of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and distinguished guests.

ESO Director General Tim de Zeeuw, said at the signing ceremony, "An association between Australia and ESO has been a goal for me for more than 20 years, and I am very pleased that it is now becoming a reality."

This partnership will allow Australian astronomers to participate in all activities relating to ESO's La Silla Paranal Observatory facilities -- specifically, the Very Large Telescope, the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, VISTA, VST, the ESO 3.6-metre telescope, and the New Technology Telescope.

The partnership will also open up opportunities for Australian scientists and industry to collaborate with ESO Member State institutions on upcoming instruments at these observatories.

Australia's expertise in instrumentation, including advanced adaptive optics and fibre-optic technology, is ideally matched with ESO's instrumentation programme.

In turn, Australia will gain access to industrial, instrumentation and scientific opportunities at the La Silla Paranal Observatory, essentially being considered a Member State for all matters relating to these facilities.

The results of such collaborations are eagerly anticipated by the ESO community.

Australia has a long and rich history of internationally acclaimed astronomical research.

Its already very active and successful astronomical community will undoubtedly thrive with long-term access to ESO's cutting-edge facilities.

This European-Australian collaboration will lead to fundamental new advances in science and technology that neither could hope to achieve alone.

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