Willy Benz Elected Next ESO Council President
7 December 2017
ESO’s governing body, the Council, has elected Professor Willy Benz of the Swiss National Centre for Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS and the University of Bern, Switzerland, as the next ESO Council President.
Willy Benz is looking forward to his new role: “I feel very honoured that the Council has entrusted me with this significant responsibility. I’m delighted to be offered the possibility to take a more active role in ensuring ESO’s capability to provide the community with world-class astronomical facilities across wavelengths, techniques, and even telescope sizes. I am looking forward to working with everyone during the coming year.”
Benz is the current director of NCCR PlanetS and Professor for Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Bern, Switzerland. His research is primarily focussed on planets, both inside and outside the Solar System, which he has studied since the mid-1980s in a career that has taken him across the Atlantic to leading astronomy institutions in the United States and back.
Benz has been heavily involved with ESO since the mid-2000s. He previously served as the chair of the Scientific Technical Committee and has been the Swiss Delegate to the ESO Council since 2015. He was a co-investigator for HARPS and is currently involved in ESPRESSO and NIRPS: all world-leading current and future instruments on ESO telescopes. He is also a co-investigator for HIRES (the High Resolution Spectrograph), an instrument currently under study for ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope.
Benz succeeds Patrick Roche from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, as the ESO Council President. Xavier Barcons, ESO’s Director General, expresses his thanks: “On behalf of the whole staff I would like to thank Patrick for his very successful leadership of the Council over the last three years — a very important period in ESO’s history!”
ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile and by Australia as a strategic partner. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.
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