Astronomical Isolation

December 14, 2011

So what will the euro-zone veto fuss do to astronomy ? Anything ?

I have just been checking for new service data on a ESO-VLT project I have. My student is doing stuff with ESA Herschel data. Lots of us are glowing happily and emailing our Italian and French friends because Euclid got selected. I just submitted another Euro-VO FP7 proposal with a variety of European chums. At project meetings, being “Europe” as opposed to “the UK” is often crucial. The Americans take us much more seriously. Hey, we are all European astronomers now. Aren’t we ?

Joining ESO was a difficult debate in the UK. Many UK astronomers have always felt more comfortable with our US and Australian friends. They speak our language (more or less), and have a kind of rugged and ambitious approach that we like. On the other hand, our French and Italian friends sometimes seem more, you know, sophisticated. In other words we are typical Brits. We can’t decide if we are cultured Europeans or part of some grand Brittanic gung ho civilisation. Even as I write, my instincts are mostly with ESO and ESA, but I am also part of a lobby thats just dying to be part of LSST.

Right now, European politicians and newspapers seem to be saying “thank goodness ! We never liked them anyway !” Are our European astronomy chums secretly irritated with us all this time ? I should point out that neither ESO nor ESA are anything to do with the EU. They are independent treaty organisations. Nothing structural or automatic ensues from the Eurozone situation. But it does make you wonder what they think of us..


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