A visit to the ESO mothership

By Stuart Ryder

Recently I attended the VLT in 2030 meeting at ESO headquarters in Garching, outside of Munich in Germany. While there I took the opportunity to extend my stay by a few days to allow time for discussions with key ESO personnel about enhancing Australia’s Strategic Partnership. For those who have not yet visited the ESO “mothership”, here are some thoughts about what you can expect.

The ESO offices are contained within a linked set of circular buildings. The oldest of these, the “E” building contains the reception, astronomer offices, library, and a kitchen/lounge area. Rather confusingly these are arranged around a series of 5 split levels (much like the evil spiral design of Sydney’s Macquarie shopping centre) so it’s possible to walk a full circuit of the building and not wind up back where you started from! Fortunately the newer rings at the rear of the complex that house more offices, meeting rooms and auditoria have just 2 or 3 floors that do remain at the same level.

The most striking new addition to the ESO campus is the Supernova planetarium and visitor centre. Entry is free, but the building is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Entry to the planetarium costs 5 Euros, and bookings in advance are advisable. Note that although the shows also have an English soundtrack, on some days only the German versions may be playing.

Garching town centre is well-connected to central Munich by the U-bahn train. The final stop after Garching is the Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM) campus where the ESO headquarters are located. ESO is a pleasant 25 minute stroll through the Bavarian countryside from Garching town centre. Although there are a number of hotels in Garching, those spending more than a few days there may prefer to stay at the Soulmade, which offers Quest-style serviced apartments with kitchenette.

The Bavarian alps are just a 2 hour train ride away. While many tourists head to the town of Fussen to see the famous Disney-esque castles, the cable car up Tegelberg provides a spectacular view of the surrounding alps and countryside. The walk back down can be tough on the knees!

ESO welcomes short- and long-term scientific visitors, and there are seminars, colloquia, and journal clubs on most days of the week, including in the adjacent Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, or on the main TUM campus. You’re bound to run into people you know and work with, and it’s a great way to promote the exciting work being carried out with ESO and Australian facilities.


Michael Murphy is the Australian representative on the ESO Science Technical Committee. Contact: [email protected]

Caroline Foster is the Australian representative on the ESO Users Committee. Contact: [email protected]

Stuart Ryder is a Program Manager with AAL. Contact: [email protected]

Guest posts are also welcome – please submit these to [email protected]