Willy Benz elected ESO Council President

ESO’s governing body, The Council, has today elected Professor Willy Benz of the Space Research & Planetary Sciences Division (WP) of the University of Bern and of NCCR PlanetS as its next President.

ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the leading European organisation for astronomic research and provides modern research facilities for astronomers and astrophysicists, allowing them to conduct science in the best conditions. Willy Benz, Professor of Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Bern and Director of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS, has now been elected as the President of its Council. He will take up his duties as President on January 1, 2018. Christian Leumann, Rector of the University of Bern, congratulates Willy Benz on his appointment and regards it as a confirmation of Bern as a site of research: "This choice is indicative of the first-class space research at the University of Bern and the strong international networking of our researchers."

Continuation of long-standing cooperation

Willy Benz is looking forward to his new position: "I feel very honored that the Council entrusted me with this significant responsibility. I’m delighted to be offered the possibility to take a more active role in ensuring ESO’s capability to provide the community with world-class astronomical facilities across wavelengths, techniques, and telescope sizes. I am looking forward to working with everyone during the coming year."

Willy Benz’ research is primarily focused on planets, both inside and outside the Solar System, which he has studied since the mid-1980s. He has been heavily involved with ESO since the mid-2000s. He previously served as the chair of the Scientific and Technical Committee and has been the Swiss Delegate to the ESO Council since 2015. He was a co-investigator for the project HARPS and is currently involved in ESPRESSO and NIRPS; all world-leading current and future instruments on ESO’s telescopes. He is also a co-investigator for the High Resolution Spectrograph HIRES, an instrument currently under development for ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope ELT, with its 39-metre main mirror the largest telescope in the world.

Willy Benz succeeds Patrick Roche from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, as the ESO Council President. The Council Presidents are elected for the period of one year and may remain in office up to three years if re-elected.

The European Southern Observatory ESO

ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is an intergovernmental scientific and technological organisation in the field of astronomy. It carries out a programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities for astronomy to enable important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research.

ESO operates three observing sites in the Atacama Desert region of Chile. The oldest site is La Silla, a 2,400-metre-high mountain, 600 kilometres north of Santiago de Chile. It is equipped with several optical telescopes with mirror diameters of up to 3.6 metres. The 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla currently is home to HARPS. HARPS, the "High Accuracy Radial-velocity Planet Searcher" is a highly accurate spectrograph and is successfully used for the hunt for exoplanets.