Today, 5 October 2012, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is celebrating 50 years since the signing of its founding convention. Over the last half century ESO has become the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory. This morning, for the first time ever, observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope were made of an object chosen by the public. The winner of an anniversary competition pointed the VLT towards the spectacular Thor’s Helmet Nebula and the observations were broadcast live over the internet. To mark the occasion ESO and its partners are organising many other activities in the 15 ESO Member States.