18 July 2018

European Southern Observatory

A day to revel in our insignificance: one of “six billion ants crawling on a plate”. And a very insignificant side-plate at that.

Last night, after the show in Munich, I met Simon Lowry from the European Southern Observatory (eso.org) who run the huge space telescopes in Chile.

He invited Jakko and me to their head office, where we were treated to a tour and sight of some of their lastest research. Just looking at the photographs is quite humbling. Our galaxy (the Mars Bar – no, The Milky Way) is 300,000 light years wide. It contains 200 billion stars orbiting around a black hole at the centre. And is just one of billions of galaxies. Things we all know (even if I have misremembered the numbers)– but seeing the evidence is breath-taking.

Simon also extended an invitation to visit the telescope itself high in the mountains in Chile. So don’t be surprised if a future King Crimson tour has a strange lay over in Chile…

In passing, I learnt that the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes, not only knew that the world was round – he also calculated to remarkable accuracy the circumference of the earth– as well as the tilt of the earth and the distance to the sun, and even the need for a leap day (all around 200BC without leaving Egypt).

Man’s ingenuity in learning about his surroundings knows no bounds. And having started with our “insignificance” – the wonder is that each living thing is unique – so far from insignificant.

Just like (in a clumsy segue) the King Crimson concerts in Stockholm...

and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam...