For the best PhD thesis in High Angular Resolution astronomy

Olivier Chesneau (1972-2014)

As a talented scientist, animated with a constant passion for astronomy, Olivier Chesneau led pioneering works using visible and infrared long-baseline interferometry. Olivier used this technique to study disk formation around varied astrophysical objects, such as evolved massive stars, planetary nebulae, and novae. His foremost results include the study of the close environment of Eta Carinae and other massive stars, the first direct detection of disks in planetary nebulae, finding evidences of dust bipolar ejections by novae shortly after eruption, and the discovery of the largest yellow hypergiant star in the Milky Way. His results were often widely publicized through press releases from ESO and CNRS-INSU. The 2012 Michelson Prize of the International Astronomical Union and of Mount Wilson Institute was awarded to Olivier Chesneau for major contributions in stellar astrophysics made with long-baseline interferometry.

During his whole career, Olivier shared his passion and expert knowledge by teaching astronomy, in supervising and helping, but mainly in motivating many young students, postdocs and scientists. He contributed notably to ESO VLTI through his involvement in the MIDI instrument and through many observing programs with AMBER. He contributed also to the VEGA instrument at the CHARA interferometer at Mount Wilson, providing many insights in the astrophysical analysis of complex interferometric data. He was preparing, with the MATISSE consortium, the second-generation instrumentation for the VLTI that will feed future international research. He was also working in the Jean-Mariotti Center (JMMC) as PI of the Calibration Group. Followers of the “Methode Chesneau” – enthusiasm, curiosity, and passion – will without doubt perpetuate his pioneering approaches. He organized the VLTI school in Porquerolles in April 2010, was a co-organizer of the interferometry school in Barcelonnette in Fall 2013, and of the 2012 Week of the French Society for Astronomy and Astrophysics. Olivier was also the science council chairman of the CNRS-INSU committee on high angular resolution astronomy (ASHRA), and part of the VLT SPHERE GTO program that was devoted to “Other Science”, i.e. on topics that are not directly related to exoplanet and protoplanetary disk observations.

Everyone who knew Olivier will remember his rich human qualities, his expert scientific abilities, and his continuous and infectious passion for scientific research.

About the Prize

The Chesneau Prize is awarded every two years to a bright PhD student in the field of High Angular Resolution Astronomy.It was established in 2015 by the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur and the European Southern Observatory in memory of Olivier Chesneau. Next prize will be awarded in 2017, and candidates having obtained their PhD degree in 2015 and 2016 can be nominated (no self-nomination).

The award committee is constituted of four members

  • The Director of the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur,
    or his/her representative
  • The Director of the Laboratory Lagrange,
    or his/her representative
  • The ESO Director for Science,
    or his/her representative
  • The Director of the CNRS/INSU “Action Spécifique sur la Haute Résolution Angulaire” (ASHRA),
    or his/her representative

The committee organizes its work completely independently; in particular, it may request outside opinions if necessary. Deliberations are kept confidential. The committee may decide to share the prize between two nominees or to award no prize, based on the quality of the nominations. The decisions of the committee are final.

Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur and Laboratoire Lagrange will provide a monetary award of 1000€, an award certificate, and an invitation to give a prize lecture at the Observatory or at an international conference organized jointly in Nice (in June 2015: during the conference “The Physics of Evolved Stars: a conference in memory of Olivier Chesneau”)

ESO will announce widely the prize winner to enhance visibility of the prize-winning work and will invite the prize winner to present his/her work at its Headquarters in Garching

Application is open to every PhD student in high-angular-resolution astronomy at an European institution.

Former Laureates

The first Chesneau prize took place in Nice during the 2015 Physics of Evolved Stars dedicated to the memory of Olivier Chesneau.

Julien Milli was awared the 2015 Chesneau prize his impressive achievements during is PhD in the field of high angular resolution and high-contrast imaging of faint discs around bright stars.

Next prize will be awarded in 2017

Contact & Nomination

Nomination documents must include

  • A nomination letter stating the originality and the potential impact of the nominated work and candidate
  • A supporting letter from a second scientist
  • A CV of the nominee
  • the publication list of the nominee
  • The phD thesis of the nominee

Nomination must be received by January 15, 2017, and the pdf files need to be uploaded by the same date.

Should you need further information please contact us at

Chesneau Prize