At the end of 2022, ESO (European Southern Observatory) celebrated its 60th anniversary, and, at the same time, it has been 15 years since the Czech Republic became a Member State of this international astronomical organisation. On this occasion, a conference entitled The Czech Republic in the European Southern Observatory was held on 21st February 2023 in the Senate of the Czech Parliament.
The conference was held under the auspices of Prof. Jiří Drahoš, Vice-Chair of the Senate of the Czech Parliament. The guests included, among others, Prof. Xavier Barcons, Director General of ESO, and Prof. Linda Tacconi, President of the ESO Council. At the beginning of the programme, Prof. Radka Wildová, Director General for Higher Education, Science and Research, delivered an opening speech on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS).
Director General Wildová mentioned that the Czech astronomical community, although not large, is achieving very good results in the international field. The entry of the Czech Republic into ESO in 2007 was an important impulse for its members. It constituted the outset for a number of successful Czech astronomical projects carried out at ESO observatories in Chile. It enabled the operation of the joint Czech-Danish telescope at La Silla Observatory. And it resulted in the hosting of the ALMA Observatory remote control centre for Central Europe, based at the Institute of Astronomy of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Ondřejov. The joint programme between ESO and MEYS is very successful, with ESO hosting three Czech trainees each year at its sites.
The series of presentations in the Senate of the Czech Parliament was followed by a series of lectures given in the evening for the expert and general public at the Prague Planetarium. The topics addressed were the latest discoveries in astronomy achieved with the ESO telescopes.