Prof. M. Tarenghi
Eye on the Sky
Professor Massimo Tarenghi, chronologically MPG/ESO project scientist, NTT project manager, VLT programme manager and first Director, ALMA Director and ESO Representative in Chile. Born in 1945, Massimo was awarded his PhD at the University of Milan in 1970. After postdoc assignments in Milan and Pavia, he became an ESRO Fellow at the Steward Observatory in the USA in 1973, but returned to Europe in 1975. Two years later, on 1 September 1977, he joined the newly established science group at ESO, at the time based in Geneva. This was also shortly after first light of the ESO 3.6-metre telescope, and, with his scientific interests in cosmology, he became one of the first official users of that telescope. In 1983, he became project manager for the 3.58-metre NTT, which served as an important testbed for many of the technologies that were to be fully used at the Very Large Telescope (VLT), including the active optics system developed by Ray Wilson. In 1989, at first light, the NTT produced the sharpest images of stellar objects ever obtained with a ground-based telescope (0.33 arcseconds; Wilson, 1989). At the inauguration of the telescope the following year, Massimo was awarded the title Commendatore della Repubblica Italiana in recognition of his achievements in connection with the NTT.
Most importantly, the initial great success of the NTT proved that ESO was on the right track towards the VLT. And so was Massimo, who, from 1988, became involved in ESO’s “big telescope” project — the VLT. In November 1991, he was appointed VLT Programme Manager and Head of the VLT Division. Over the years to come, he led the project to its successful conclusion — the first-light mile stones for the four Unit Telescopes (UTs) and the first fringes to be obtained with the VLT Interferometer. Massimo has now completed his career at ESO, a sterling one indeed, and one which has led to the award of the Tycho Brahe Prize in 2013 by the European Astronomical Society. It is a fitting reward. Tycho built Europe’s largest and most prominent astronomical observatory of his time; Massimo, it can be argued, did the same in our time. More honours followed when he was awarded the Grand Cross, the highest rank of the order of Bernardo O’Higgins, by the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Yet he will not stop working. He is providing help to the European Research Council and continues to undertake other activities in the service of science.5