What’s it like to be an ESO Visiting Scientist?

By Rob Wittenmyer
[email protected]

For 5 weeks in September-October 2018, I was at ESO Santiago hosted by the Visiting Scientist program.  For this “paper-writing retreat,” I worked with Matias Jones, an ESO Fellow with whom I have collaborated for several years on the search for planets orbiting evolved stars.

The Visiting Scientist process was remarkably simple, with a one page application submitted whenever you please i.e., rolling admissions. You can specify any dates and duration for visits to either Garching or Santiago, and ESO will cover flights if you stay at least four weeks. ESO organises all travel and local accommodation; I stayed in the Providencia area which is extremely convenient for transport, shops, restaurants, etc. I speak Spanish, so it was easy to adjust to living like a local: I had my usual coffee shop and joined a nearby gym. You can take the bus to ESO Vitacura (the Beverly Hills of Chile), but I found that it takes the same time to just walk, and is far more salubrious than the near electron degeneracy-level of density found on the bus (if it turns up at all).

The scientific environment at ESO is of course very rich, with near-daily TMTs (“thirty minute talks”) and weekly colloquia. Free and good coffee is abundant, and in the spring, pleasant lunchtimes are had on the porch. This being the longest and most flexible of my five visits to Chile, I made a day trip to Cajon del Maipo, and a long weekend in Patagonia to finally see the Torres del Paine. Sadly, after a 20 km hike, the Torres were obscured by blowing snow – so I suggest visiting closer to summer for those interested in mountain adventures!


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

Sarah Sweet 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]