Scientific Visitor Programme at the ESO Headquarters

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, we strongly discourage the submission of new applications until further notice.

This page will be updated regularly according to the development of the COVID-19 restrictions.


To support long term visits by first rate scientists of any nationality as a way to promote the scientific interaction of ESO with its community and with research institutions worldwide and to enhance ESO's role as an astronomical centre of excellence.

How to Apply

ESO welcomes applications from potential visitors of any nationality through the ESO Scientific Visitor Programme. Any active scientist with a PhD in astronomy or related disciplines, and currently employed in astronomical research, is eligible to apply. The ESO Scientific Visitor Programme is open to researchers affiliated with institutes both within ESO Member States and outside. Potential applicants are encouraged to directly contact any ESO staff member or fellow and coordinate their planned visit with them.

Alternatively, any potential applicant may contact the Chair of the ESO Visitor Selection Committee ( to put them in contact with an ESO staff member in their field. All ESO Faculty members and ESO Fellows are also welcome to contact potential visitors and invite them to apply or to ask the VSC Chair to send an invitation. For practical reasons, potential visitors are requested to submit their application at least 4 months in advance of the planned visit.

The length of the visits can vary from one month to a maximum of one year. For distinguished scientists multiple visits over a period of 2-3 years can also be approved. Applications for shorter visits are handled directly by the Head of the Office for Science. Ph.D. students or scientists without an affiliation at the time during the entire time of the planned visit cannot apply within this programme.

Currently (2020), the programme has resources (budget and office space) to host the equivalent of 4-5 visitors/month. The Visitor Programme tends to be quite full during the summer months (June-August), so visits at other times of the year are encouraged, where possible.

Scientists who want to apply are kindly requested to complete the application form and send it by e-mail it to the VSC chairperson ( will check for suitability and might request more details or information to incorporate in the text before distributing it to the VSC members for evaluation.

How Scientific Visitors are Selected

Applications to the ESO Visitor Programme are evaluated by the ESO Scientific Visitor Selection Committee (VSC). The members of the VSC are selected from the ESO Faculty and cover a broad range of scientific interests. The VSC reviews incoming applications every 1-2 months and recommends visitors to the Head of the Office for Science. It also searches actively in collaboration with the Faculty for potential visitors who by their specific expertise and/or internationally recognised level of excellence in research can contribute to the scientific activities of the organisation. It follows up the approved visits with the appropriate correspondence and arrangements and globally monitors the on-going visits to make them successful.

Given the scope of the programme, the visitors generally belong to one of the following categories: Visitors of world-recognised scientific stature in any field of astronomy, visitors who with their well-proven expertise can contribute to the ESO science-related activities and projects (e.g. definition of scientific drivers of a new VLT instrument, scientific case for a new project, etc.) scientific visitors who would like to visit within the framework of a specific scientific project in collaboration with ESO staff or fellows but who can also contribute to the overall scientific discussion within ESO. However, scientific visitors in other categories are also welcome to apply.

Support to and Duties of the Visitors

While at ESO, a scientific visitor has the status of Unpaid Associate and receives a montly allowance to cover living expenses. Generally, ESO provides accommodation for visitors in the form of fully furnished apartments in Garching. Should the visitor arrange to stay elsewhere, recompense is possible on production of receipt of payment for the accommodation. Travel expenses to and from ESO are also generally reimbursed.  

Upon his/her arrival, the visitor is supported by the secretary of the scientific visitor programme, Nelma Silva (, on the administrative aspects of their visit. The contact person (the scientific collaborator at ESO or a member of the staff identified at the time of the invitation) has the task of introducing the visitor to the scientific life at ESO. An office is assigned to every approved visitor, as well as a computer terminal and an account. The offices are generally for a single person but depending on the seniority and the available office space assigned to this purpose at the time of the visit, office sharing can become necessary.

All visitors are requested to give either a seminar or an informal discussion during their stay at ESO, and are expected to follow the ESO code of conduct.

Visitors for longer periods (>> 1 month) may be asked to give a series of lectures. Visitors are also requested to acknowledge support from the ESO Scientific Visitor Programme in any publication(s) resulting from the visit.