Daleks in Armenia

Long time no blog – have been on holiday in an internet free Cornish Cottage. Now I find myself for a week in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, and spiritual heartland for Active Galaxy freaks. How did such a tiny country make such an impact on modern astrophysics ? Since Ambartsumian in the late 1940s, their obsession has been to find unstable and violent things in the Universe – active galaxies, star forming regions, young stellar objects. This is where Markarian and and Arakelian first surveyed the sky for anomalously blue objects, and objects with emission lines; where Khachikian and Weedman first defined two distinct types of Seyfert galaxy; and where Ambartsumian argued that quasars might be “white holes”, spewing matter out into the cosmos. (Nice idea, but you can’t win them all..). Most of this was done at the wonderful Byurakan Observatory, with a dome that looks like a Dalek.

I am here for the 15th annual “Joint European and National Astronomy Meeting” – JENAM-2007, whose tagline this year is “The non-stable Universe”. There is a Symposium on Science with Virtual Observatories, and I am giving a review on Massive Surveys and the VO. But there is also an AGN Symposium, and a visit to Byurakan.. can’t wait.

This is my first time in Armenia, a strange and beautiful place. Its a bizzare mixture of religiosity and intellectuality, of civic pride and crumbling infrastructure, of monasteries and telescopes, with a unique alphabet. Right now I am listening to Guy Monnet tell us about Europe’s plans for a 42m telescope .. more to come.


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