ESOcast 41: Going South

Special 50th anniversary episode #1

21 March 2012

Leading up to ESO’s 50th anniversary in October 2012, we are releasing eight special ESOcasts, each a chapter from the movie Europe to the Stars — ESO’s First 50 Years of Exploring the Southern Sky.

This first special episode — entitled “Going South” — describes the birth of ESO, and in particular why astronomers from European countries decided to explore the southern sky by placing an astronomical observatory in Chile.

Until fifty years ago, almost all major telescopes were located north of the equator. However, astronomers soon realised the importance of the southern sky. For instance, the centre of the Milky Way, our home galaxy, can hardly be seen from the northern hemisphere but in the south it passes high overhead. Other important objects are the Magellanic Clouds — two small companion galaxies to the Milky Way — which cannot be observed from Europe, but which are very conspicuous south of the equator. Going south also helped to avoid light pollution and poor weather at many observatories located in European cities.

This episode describes the important steps in the creation of ESO, from an early meeting on a boat trip in the Netherlands in June 1953, when the astronomers Walter Baade and Jan Oort told colleagues about their plan for a European observatory in the southern hemisphere, to the final signature of the ESO convention on 5 October 1962 by five European countries (Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden).

Watch the episode to learn more about how, fifty years ago, Europe embarked on a grand voyage of cosmic discovery.

More Information

The ESOcast is a video podcast series dedicated to bringing you the latest news and research from ESO — the European Southern Observatory.

Subscribe to our video podcast now to keep up with the latest news from ESO: the ESOcast is available via iTunes in HD and SD. It’s also available on YouTubeVimeo and dotSUB and is offered for download in several formats including HD.




Directed by: Lars Lindberg Christensen
Art Direction, Production Design: Martin Kornmesser
Producer: Herbert Zodet
Written by: Govert Schilling
3D animations and graphics: Martin Kornmesser & Luis Calçada
Editing: Martin Kornmesser
Cinematography: Herbert Zodet & Peter Rixner
Sound engineer: Cristian Larrea
Narration Mastering: Peter Rixner
Host & Lead Scientist: Dr J (Dr Joe Liske, ESO)
Narration: Sara Mendes da Costa
Soundtrack & Sound Effects: movetwo - Axel Kornmesser & Markus Löffler
Footage and photos: ESO, Stéphane Guisard (, Christoph Malin (, Babak Tafreshi/TWAN, A. Santerne, ESO Historical Picture Archive: J. Dommaget/J. Boulon/J. Doornenbal/W. Schlosser/F.K. Edmondson/A. Blaauw/Rademakers/R. Holder, Mineworks, Daniel Crouch/Rare Books (, Getty Images, Royal Astronomical Society/Science Photo Library, Jay M. Pasachoff, Chris de Coning,/South African Library/Warner-Madear, Africana Museum/Warner, Leiden University and G. Brammer and Nick Risinger.
Technical support: Lars Holm Nielsen and Raquel Yumi Shida
DVD Authoring: Andre Roquette
Proof reading: Anne Rhodes
Executive producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen

About the Announcement



Screenshot of ESOcast 41
Screenshot of ESOcast 41


ESOcast 41: Going South — Special 50th anniversary episode #1
ESOcast 41: Going South — Special 50th anniversary episode #1