ORIGINS Scientist Awarded a European Research Council Synergy Grant

ESO astronomer and ORIGINS Scientist Dr. Leonardo Testi together with Patrick Hennebelle from CEA Paris-Saclay in France, Ralf Klessen from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and Sergio Molinari from the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Rome, Italy, were awarded with up to €12.6 million by the European Research Council (ERC) for the project "ECOGAL – Understanding our Galactic ecosystem: From the disk of the Milky Way to the formation sites of stars and planets". This project is one of only 37 synergy grants to be funded by the ERC in 2019 and the only one in the field of astronomy.

Dr. Leonardo Testi, taken during the first three days of the ESO@50 conference, celebrating 50 years of the European Southern Observatory. Held at ESO's headquarters in Garching near Munich, September 3–7, 2012. Image Credit: M.McCaughrean (ESA)/ESO

The ECOGAL project unites four research groups in Europe at the forefront in observational astronomy, numerical astrophysics, instrument development, and astroinformatics. The ERC grant funding will create about 30 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students, and other staff in the grantees' research team over the six years project duration.

The primary science goal of ECOGAL is to build a unifying predictive model of star and planet formation in our galaxy, the Milky Way. The participating researchers will analyse data coming from several large observing campaigns with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and a multitude of smaller programmes, totalling to more than 1000 hours of observing time. Part of the funding will be used to provide new components for the future ALMA Band 2 receivers — the highly sensitive detectors that will be installed on each of ALMA’s 66 antennas — which is a longer-term benefit for astronomers observing with this telescope.

The European Research Council (ERC) is the foremost European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. ERC synergy grants are awarded to small teams of excellent researchers whose host institutions are based in Europe. Worth in total €363 million in 2019, these special grants will enable groups of two to four top researchers to bring together complementary skills, knowledge and resources in one research project with the goal of tackling some of the most complex research problems, often spanning multiple scientific disciplines.


Leonardo Testi
European Southern Observatory
Tel.: +49 89 3200 6541