Observing at ESO I. The ESO guesthouse

By Alexandre Santerne, ESO Photo Ambassador & exoplanet researcher at Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (Portugal)

General view of the gardens of ESO's guesthouse
General view of the gardens of ESO’s Guesthouse. Image credits : Alexandre Santerne/ESO

The La Silla and Paranal observatories in Chile are two of ESO’s sites where astronomical observations are carried out. They are like our working place, but located about 11 000 km from Europe and require a few days to reach them. When going to Chile as a visiting astronomer[1], the first place we arrive to is the ESO Guesthouse. Located in Santiago de Chile, this is a very quiet and peaceful house where we stay one night to recover between the long flight from Europe (about 14 hours long and 5 hours of jet lag) and the night life at the observatories.

 inner garden at ESO's guest house
View of the inner garden at ESO’s Guesthouse. Image credits : Alexandre Santerne/ESO

The Guesthouse has a dozen of rooms with a beautiful botanical garden and a private swimming pool. The most important place is however the living room where we share breakfast / lunch / dinner or even the pisco sour time[2] with other visiting astronomers from the ESO Member States[3].

ESO guest house living room. Image credits : Alexandre Santerne/ESO
ESO Guesthouse living room. Image credits : Alexandre Santerne/ESO

The discussions mostly focus on science, astronomical observations, and weather conditions as well as the upcoming new facilities developed by ESO, in particular the next generation instruments for the Very Large Telescope[4] and the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope[5]. Besides providing fantastic ground-based facilities for observations, ESO is also a great place to meet other astronomers working with ESO’s telescopes.

[1]- To decrease mission costs, most observations are carried out in service mode and are performed by ESO staff. However, some observations require to be performed by the astronomers themselves. In this case, we are called “visiting astronomers”.
[2]- The pisco sour is the famous Chilean and Bolivian cocktail, composed mostly of Pisco (a kind of brandy) with lemon juice.
[3]- The ESO member states are Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom http://www.eso.org/public/about-eso/memberstates/
[4]- see http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/vlt/vlt-instr/
[5]- see http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/e-elt/