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Prince Philippe of Belgium Leads Industrial Delegation Visiting ESO Sites in Chile

(PresseBox) (Garching bei München, ) The heir apparent to the throne of Belgium visited ESO's Paranal Observatory, accompanied by a business delegation exploring future opportunities for European industry within the context of ESO's European Extremely Large Telescope project.

His Royal Highness Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant, Crown Prince of Belgium, started his visit to the ESO sites in Chile on Monday 5 December 2011, taking part in an industrial day at the ESO Vitacura offices in Santiago, Chile. The event highlighted the many opportunities that will be available for European companies thanks to ESO's E-ELT, which will be "the world's biggest eye on the sky" with a 40-metre-class primary mirror.

"The E-ELT will provide invaluable opportunities for ESO Member State companies and organisations alike, and as the biggest telescope of its kind, it will be a powerful driver for future research," declared Prof. Massimo Tarenghi, the ESO Representative in Chile.

As one of the founding members of ESO, Belgium has already made many major contributions to the organisation. For example the four Auxiliary Telescopes at the Paranal Observatory were built by the Belgian company AMOS (Liège). Two important contracts related to the design phase of the E-ELT have already been awarded to Belgian companies.

The Belgian astronomical community has also made extensive use of ESO facilities. Very recently, the Belgian TRAPPIST telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory was used to make an important discovery related to the dwarf planet Eris (eso1142).

On Wednesday 7 December, the delegation flew from Santiago to the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth and home to ESO's Paranal Observatory. His Royal Highness was taken on a tour of the installations by Prof. Massimo Tarenghi and Dr. Michael Sterzik, who explained the purpose and operation of the telescopes. After the opening of the domes at sunset, the delegation was led to one of the control rooms to witness some of the scientific work currently under way at Paranal.

Prince Philippe was accompanied by Minister Marcourt, Vice-President and Minister of Economy, SME, Foreign Trade and New Technologies for the Wallonia Government, Minister of State Jos Chabert, and Dirk Van Eeckhout, Ambassador of Belgium in Chile, as well as by a major business delegation, including representatives from AMOS, SEPTENTRIO, ENE, XENIC and the University of Liège.

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ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world's most productive astronomical observatory. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. 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, the world's most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world's largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning a 40-metre-class European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky".

- Belgian involvement with ESO
- Images of the Paranal Observatory