Astrophysicist Catherine Cesarsky will be the next director-general of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), succeeding Riccardo Giacconi. The French researcher, currently head of a four-laboratory basic research group at the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA) near Paris, will take over at ESO headquarters in Garching, Germany, on 1 September.
Cesarsky, who studied at the University of Buenos Aires and obtained a Harvard astronomy Ph.D. in 1971, joined CEA's astrophysics department in 1974. Since 1994, she has headed the institute's basic research group, which employs some 800 physics, chemistry, and astronomy researchers.
The opening challenge of Cesarsky's 5-year term will be to keep the world's largest telescope array on schedule. The $800 million Very Large Telescope, a quartet of magnifiers, is scheduled to begin full-scale operations in 2001 in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile (Science, 1 May 1998, p. 670 ). Further along the road, ESO plans to build the Large Southern Array, a set of 50 large radio dishes that will observe in the millimeter range, also in Chile.
Having lived in Argentina for over 20 years, Cesarsky is pleased with the prospect of frequent travel to South America. But most of all, she says, she looks forward to returning to astrophysics, after overseeing many different scientific fields at CEA. Michael Rowan-Robinson, an astronomer at Imperial College in London, applauds her appointment. Cesarsky's record at CEA, he says, "both demonstrates her scientific leadership and management skills in a large organization."