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The armillary sphere at ESA's European Space Research INstitute (ESRIN), in Frascati, some 20 km south of Rome, Italy. This sphere was built for the Hipparcos symposium held in Venice in 1997. Such early astronomical devices were used by ancient Greek astronomers to measure the distances and positions of stars. Founded in 1966 by the European Satellite Research Organisation (ESRO), one of ESA's parent organisations, ESRIN is ESA's oldest centre. Today, ESRIN is ESA's chief centre for Earth observation, information technology and communications. ESRIN is responsible for coordinating the data from the more than 30 ground stations worldwide collecting the data from the Earth observation missions carried out by ESA satellites, as well as satellites from other partner countries. This vast amount of data is then processed and stored at ESRIN so that it can be used in various applications and distributed to users all over the world. As ESA's centre for information technology, ESRIN develops the information systems and software for ESA's operations throughout Europe. It also provides for the networking of the ESA Centres and ensures information technology standardisation throughout the agency. In addition, it plays a key role in providing information on ESA's activities to the decision makers, the media, and the general public. ESRIN is also hosting the development team for ESA's Vega small satellite launcher programme.