Last year the European Southern Observatory (ESO) celebrated 60 years of existence, and the Czech Republic also celebrated 15 years since joining ESO. On this occasion, a conference was held in the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic on February 21, 2023, with the participation of ESO Director General Professor Xavier Barcons. The conference was organized by the 1st Vice-President of the Senate Prof. Jiří Drahoš, and the Vice-President of the Senate Committee on European Affairs Dr. Jiří Dušek.
First Vice-President of the Senate and former President of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Jiří Drahoš, commented on the contribution of the Observatory: "The European Southern Observatory is a top international research organization that enables Czech scientists to use the most advanced astronomical technology and participate in the world's most important projects for 15 years. During that time, their work produced many excellent results. In addition, ESO also offers many opportunities in other scientific fields and provides opportunities for young scientists and students."
The Czech Republic joined ESO on April 30, 2007, as the first member country from Central and Eastern Europe. Over the years, Czech scientists and engineers have significantly contributed to the organization, telescopes, and national telescopes at ESO observatories. Czech institutions, including the Institute of Physics (FZU) CAS and Palacký University Olomouc, are also members of the emerging CTAO ERIC consortium, which will operate the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) for the observations of cosmic gamma rays of very high energy (ESO will operate the southern part of the CTA).
Dr. Dušan Mandát, representative of the Czech Republic in the Scientific Technical Committee of ESO, presented the construction of the CTA observatories and the development of their experimental facilities. In his presentation, he summarized the contribution of Czech workplaces to the project, from the selection of candidate sites for the observatories, through the development of new mirror technologies, optical simulations, telescope alignment, to technologies for intensity interferometry. "In the future, we will have large reflecting surfaces available at the VLT, ELT, and CTA at large distances from each other, and we could use this in stellar intensity interferometry projects within ESO", stated Dušan Mandát. He also recalled the joint project with the Astronomical Institute of the CAS at the Ondřejov observatory, where prototypes of the Cherenkov telescopes for the detection of high-energy gamma photons are installed.