The La Silla Observatory – from the inauguration to the future La Serena, Chile, March 25-29, 2019. PhD. Barbara Silva: “Astronomy and History. What time could tell us on the astronomical facilities in Chile.”

The La Silla Observatory – from the inauguration to the future

La Serena, Chile, March 25-29, 2019

Scientific Rationale

The La Silla Observatory was officially inaugurated on 25 March 1969. This event marked the culmination of the vision of European astronomers to create a major observatory in the Southern Hemisphere. In the following decades, La Silla served as the test-bed for developing technical and scientific expertise in the European astronomical community, establishing communications channels with the public at large and the interaction of an inter-governmental organisation and its host country, Chile. Relations with other astronomical facilities in the Andes mountains are also part of its history. La Silla has served as a superb site where national communities of ESO member states could install their experiments; some of these facilities regularly put the La Silla Observatory in the news. This conference celebrates the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of La Silla. We will review the significance of its history in all aspects and discuss possible future scenarios. The history of the Observatory including all of its many facets, and the research areas where La Silla telescopes have made important contributions will be reviewed.

Astronomy and History. What time could tell us on the astronomical facilities in Chile.

Keynote speaker: Barbara Silva, PhD.

We all know history and astronomy are two different areas of knowledge. Nonetheless, both work with time, as they question a past that is gone forever. Astronomy does so with starlight; history does it with ancient –or old- documents. Moreover, astronomy has its own temporality, as it has changed throughout time, even if we reflect on the last decades. In the light of this, fifty years have passed since ESO’s inauguration; therefore this commemoration gives us an advantage to think of the relationship between international astronomy and Chile. History can illuminate ESO’s past, letting us understand how this organization settled here and contributed to what astronomy is today in the country. On the other side, ESO’s history can show us a different perspective on Chilean recent past, and we can visit these past five decades through the eyes of science. We can situate this story at a crossroads: by bringing together the history of science, technology, politics, international relations, and culture we can begin to understand this surprising and extraordinary story of ESO, Chile and astronomy. As time does not stop its course, being aware of this story can enhance our ability to understand we are still writing part of the history of astronomy.

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