Wednesday 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 ( 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...