Miroslava Kopicová, Minister of Education, said the move opens up new avenues for Czech astronomers. “It will foster this discipline on the highest quality level and open new opportunities for the Czech industry to actively cooperate in research and development of high tech instruments for astronomical research.”
The Czech Republic is the first country from central and eastern Europe to join ESO and the thirteenth member of the consortium.
Astronomy in the Czech Republic has a tradition that dates as far back as 3500 BC. Four centuries ago, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler established themselves in Prague at the invitation of the Emperor Rudolph II, laying the ground for the first golden age in astronomy. Later, eminent scientists such as Christian Doppler, Ernst Mach and Albert Einstein stayed in the city for a period of time. The Czech capital also played host to the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union, first in 1967 and, more recently, in August 2006.
Astronomy in the country operates between the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences, which runs the Ondrejov Observatory with a 2-metre optical telescope and a 10-metre radio telescope, and several leading universities, in Prague, Brno and Opava, among others. Czech astronomers are active in fields including solar and stellar physics, and the study of interstellar matter, galaxies and planetary systems.