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The Jewel on the Mountaintop: The European Southern Observatory through Fifty Years

ISBN: 978-3-527-41203-7
600 pages
November 2012
The Jewel on the Mountaintop: The European Southern Observatory through Fifty Years (3527412034) cover image


Authored by ESO senior advisor Claus Madsen, the present book comprises 576 action-packed pages of ESO history and dramatic stories about the people behind the organisation. This is the ultimate historical account about ESO and its telescopes in the southern hemisphere, but also about a truly remarkable European success story in research. Spanning the range from the first telescopes to the future platforms of the next generation, it shows how the improvement of the telescopes leads to a continuously changing view of the Universe. With 150 photos and illustrations. Produced especially for ESO's 50th anniversary.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Hinge: The VLT
Part I: Catching Up
Chapter I-1: The Oldest Science
Chapter I-2: Returning from the Abyss
Chapter I-3: A Dramatic Twist
Chapter I-4: In the Most Remote Place God Could Find
Chapter I-5: ESO -
Quo Vadis?
Chapter I-6: Towards the 3.6-metre Telescope
Chapter I-7: Sky Mapper
Chapter I-8: Of Heaven and Hell, the Vatican and the Mission
Chapter I-9: Changing of the Guard
Chapter I-10: Garching United
Part II: Years of Experimentation
Chapter II-1: Upping the Ante
Chapter II-2: Inventing a Game Changer
Chapter II-3: EMMI, SUSI, SOFI and the other Darlings
Chapter II-4: Hubble at ESO
Chapter II-5: History in Passing
Chapter II-6: An Annus Mirabilis
Chapter II-7: The Day of Decision
Chapter II-8: A Mountain in the Middle of Nowhere
Chapter II-9: NTT First Light
Part III: The Breakthrough
Chapter III-1: Back to the Drawing Board
Chapter III-2: Aux Instruments, Chercheurs!
Chapter III-3: Breaking the Seeing Barrier
Chapter III-4: From Double-sight to Supersight: Interferometry
Chapter III-5: The Return of the Dalton Brothers
Chapter III-6: Bang for the Buck
Chapter III-7: Paradigm Revisited
Chapter III-8: Upgrading, De-scoping
Chapter III-9: Clouds on the Horizon
Chapter III-10: At the Brink
Chapter III-11: Tranquillity in Chile, Stiff Winds in Europe
Chapter III-12: Tuning a Formidable Science Machine
Chapter III-13: The Countdown
Chapter III-14: Clear Skies, at Last
Chapter III-15: First Fringes of the Phoenix
Chapter III-16: Not Just a Telescope, an Observatory;
Not Just an Observatory, a Home
Part IV: Towards New Horizons
Chapter IV-1: ALMA
Chapter IV-2: Into New Territory
Chapter IV-3: Buds at Paranal
Chapter IV-4: Of Eponymous Birds and Euros
Chapter IV-5: The VLT in Retrospect
Chapter IV-6: A Love Affair
Chapter IV-7: A Growing Organisation
Chapter IV-8: The Surge
Chapter IV-9: Born in Europe, at Home in the World
Chapter IV-10: A Window to the Public
Appendix 1 Important Milestones
Appendix 2 List of ESO Council Presidents and Directors General
Appendix 3 List of Interviewees
Appendix 4 Index of Names
Appendix 5 Subject Index
Appendix 6 List of Acronym
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Author Information

Claus Madsen is Senior Advisor for International Science Policy. He has devoted his professional life to two strands of activities: International science policy and public science communication. In 1980, he joined ESO. After a few years at the ESO Sky Laboratory, he became more and more involved in organising exhibitions, producing films and giving public lectures on astronomy.
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“Indeed, anyone who has had any involvement with, or interest in, the incredible astronomical phoenix that sprang out the ashes of WW II, should get a copy.”  (The Observatory Magazine, 1 June 2013)

“Anniversary publications can be overly dry or self-puffing, but this one isn’t – it’s a weighty yet wonderfully written account of the effort to restore the prowess of European astronomy after World War II.”  (BBC Sky at Night Magazine, 1 February 2013)

“Rightly, the book is dedicated to the memory of Adriaan Blaauw, ESO’s second Director General who initial articles led the author to put together this excellent chronicle.”  (Astronomy Now, 1 February 2013)

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