Archive for Euclid Consortium

Ethics and the SpaceX Business

Posted in Biographical, Politics with tags , on September 6, 2022 by telescoper

Six months ago when Russia invaded Ukraine there was considerable debate about the practicality of sanctions on Putin’s regime. The discussion largely centered around whether economic sanctions would be effective and whether they would harm the nations imposing them more than they would Putin. At the time it seemed to me this was the wrong way of looking about it. The main issue as far as I was concerned was not their likely efficacy, but the ethical and moral dimension of doing business with a warmongering state. A similar issue came up frequently in the 1980s over South Africa, for example. The issue was not for me whether not buying South African oranges would end apartheid; it was about whether I personally felt morally comfortable with doing business with a racist state. Russia is not the only country or entity nowadays with whom I would feel very uncomfortable being involved, but it is one.

Ethical considerations are however often compromised by practical issues. A complete ban on Russian oil and gas imports would cause devastation in the short term, for example, so Western sanctions on Putin have concentrated elsewhere.

Individuals also make ethical decisions about what products they buy, which employers they work for, which countries they visit, and so on. These are of course private matters but people have a right to voice their opinions and argue their case.

At least an individual can decide their own position with unanimity. It’s somewhat more complicated in an organization or group as there are likely to be dissenting views. Nevertheless, I think it is good to have these discussions out in the open. That’s what should happen in a free society and in a well-run organization.

You may nor may not agree with the blog post by Arthur Loureiro about Elon Musk and SpaceX that was published here last week, but I think it raises a similar question: with whom do you feel comfortable doing business?

I suspect that I’m not alone in agreeing with Arthur’s discomfort about Elon Musk. As a matter of fact I think he’s a thoroughly nasty piece of work. Many people no doubt also felt moral discomfort at the prospect of Euclid being launched on a Soyuz spacecraft. In the end the decision will probably be based on pragmatism rather than ethics, but I think it was right for Arthur to raise the issue publicly and I am glad to have been able to make his views public via this website. There are limits and we need to discuss where those limits lie.

P.S. I am glad that the Euclid Consortium has stated aims to be as diverse and inclusive as possible. I am also aware that there are members of the Consortium who disagree with its EDI policies. I’ve observed in many organizations that those who disfavour diversity and inclusion often complain about having diversity “forced upon them”. I shall refrain from commenting further.

Guest Post: The Euclid Consortium has an EDI challenge if ESA goes ahead with SpaceX

Posted in LGBT, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on September 1, 2022 by telescoper

The following is a guest post from Arthur Loureiro who is Euclid Science Ground Segment Senior Scientist at the The University of Edinburgh. Opinions expressed here are personal and do not reflect those of the Euclid Collaboration nor the University of Edinburgh.

This guest post is based on an open letter sent by Arthur Loureiro & Gabriele Mainetti to the Euclid Consortium Diversity Committee.


According to news outlets, the European Space Agency is considering using Elon Musk’s SpaceX to send the Euclid Space Telescope to L2. SpaceX is seen as an alternative to fill the gap left by the Soyuz spacecraft – removed by Roscosmos as a consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia made its first invasion of Ukraine back in 2014 and, since then, ESA had plans to use the future Ariane 6 rocket to deliver Euclid. But the plan to use Ariane 6 went to space (differently from Euclid) as Ariane Space signed their largest contract ever with… Bezos! The comic book vilan billionaire doesn’t seem to have enough rockets in his back garden. He needs to cut the queue ahead of Euclid to send more space junk low-orbit satellites for Amazon.

So, off to SpaceX we (seem to) go.

The issue is that SpaceX’s CEO is known to be a complicated figure (to say the least!). Musk has attacked multiple times subjects at the core of the Euclid Collaboration’s values. We cannot claim to care for diversity, inclusion, equality, LGBTQIA+ rights, climate change, vaccines, and democracy and close a deal with such a vile figure. Launching the Euclid telescope via SpaceX would mean dumping millions of euros in the pockets of someone who is very vocal against these values.

In case our telescope decides to hitch a $50+M hike in SpaceX’s Falcon 9, the Euclid Collaboration has an EDI challenge ahead.

Personally, as one of the few Latin Americans involved in Euclid, it feels like a slap in the face to know we will be doing business with him. Musk has zero respect for the fragile democracy we have in our southern continent. In 2020, for example, Musk said “We will coup whoever we want. Deal with it” about the coup against the elected president Evo Morales in Bolivia. For context, the coup was mainly motivated by gaining access to Bolivia’s Lithium reserve. I find this statement absurdly disturbing. Reminiscents of a (hopefully) long gone colonial epoch.

I cannot speak for the group, but I suspect the feeling must be similar for the LGBTQIA+ community within Euclid. Musk has consistently and openly attacked the LGBTQIA+ community on multiple fronts. For the (few) women in the Collaboration, I imagine the feeling is of absolute repulse and disgust. On top of other issues Musk has with women, the telescope they have been working for will be (possibly) launched by SpaceX where recent accusations of sexual harassment have been raised against the CEO.

As a collective and diverse group of scientists, engineers, and academics, are we endorsing Musk and his attitudes by signing a multi-million dollar contract with his company?

As a collaboration that endorses the values of EDI, science, and democracy, what are we going to do to mitigate the damage caused by paying this person and company so much money?

How are we going to deal with the bitter taste (to say the least) left for those members of the EC that has been directly or indirectly attacked by Musk and his followers?

Euclid must fly to its final destination at L2. We cannot wait to see all that our Dark Universe mission has to reveal to us! If ESA decides to use Musk’s SpaceX, that is beyond the Euclid Collaboration’s decision power. However, the Collaboration can and must discuss how to avoid being linked in any way, shape or form to this despicable figure before we change from ESA’s Euclid Mission to Elon’s Euclid Mission. Credit to Musk must be avoided at all costs as the cost will be Euclid’s shot at being a diverse and inclusive Collaboration.

Euclid Launch Delay

Posted in Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on June 17, 2022 by telescoper

Until relatively recently we al thought the European Space Agency’s  Euclid mission would take place later this year (2022). For various reasons that date subsequently slipped to the first quarter of 2023.

Then Russia invaded Ukraine which, because Euclid was intended to be launched on a Russian Soyuz vehicle a further delay seemed likely (see here). The subsequent decision by the Russians to remove all their personnel from the launch site at Kourou (see here) made these even more likely as an alternative launch vehicle would have to be used.

There was an update about the situation at the recent Euclid Consortium meeting in Oslo which I could not attend but which I referred to here. The basic problem is that Plan B involves launching Euclid on an Ariane 6 rocket (which comes in two varieties, Ariane62 and Ariane64, with two and four boosters respectively). The problems are (a) that Ariane 6 is that it hasn’t yet had its first flight and (b) Euclid isn’t the only spacecraft now having to find an alternative launcher. The competition from commercial and military satellites may mean a lengthy delay to the Euclid Launch unless lobbying succeeds at a political level.

It has now emerged that earliest feasible date for launch on an Ariane 6 rocket is the 3rd quarter of 2024 and it may well be later than that, the uncertainty exacerbating the effects of the delay itself.

This is all very unfortunate. Euclid is now fully built and ready so a lengthy delay would be very damaging to morale. More concretely, many researchers employed to work on Euclid are on fixed-term contracts which will now expire before they can complete their work. This will have a very serious effect on younger researchers. To keep everything going while the spacecraft waits for a launch will be extremely expensive: the Euclid Consortium Board estimates a cost of about €50M for every year of delay and it is by no means clear where those funds would come from.

It seems to me that the best hope for a resolution of this problem would be for ESA to permit the launch of Euclid using something other than Ariane 6, which means using a vehicle supplied by an independent commercial operator. I sincerely hope ESA is able to come up with an imaginative solution to this very serious problem.

P.S. With this update, the odds on me retiring before Euclid is launched have just shortened considerably…

Post Easter Post

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth with tags , , on April 25, 2022 by telescoper

So here I am, then, back in the office after the Easter break for the remaining two weeks of Semester Two. I was supposed to be on leave last week but there’s so much to do that I ended up working most days apart from the Easter weekend itself, but at least I do so from the comfort of my own home and, occasionally, garden.

I had hoped to be able to spend the latter part of this week at the annual Euclid Consortium meeting which is being held this year in Oslo. Unfortunately because this year it falls within teaching term I’ve just got too much to do so I can’t go. I hope my colleagues and friends in Euclid have an enjoyable and successful time in Oslo. I hope to make it next year, wherever it is held.

Next Monday is the May Day Holiday so we have only 9 days of teaching left before the study break and examinations. Although next weekend is a Bank Holiday weekend, the powers that be in Maynooth have decreed that Saturday will be an Open Day:

It remains to be seen how many prospective students and their families will choose to interrupt their long weekend to visit campus on Saturday April 30th but I’ll be there. I know no bounds, you see…

The most exciting thing that happened last week was that a bloke from the Gas Board came to install a new gas meter. My colleagues were skeptical that he would actually turn up at the appointed time but he did. He completed the job in about half an hour, including time for a short lecture on why I should have a carbon monoxide meter put in my kitchen. The gas meter is actually on the front of the house and the gas man was kept under close surveillance as he worked by the local robin who has clearly decided that both front and back gardens are its own private property.

Last week the same robin made further visits to the inside of my house, even tapping on the window with its beak to be let in. I am increasingly concerned that it will decide that the inside of the house also belongs to it and I’ll end up being forcibly evicted.

It is an annual tradition at Eastertide to worry about whether Newcastle United will be relegated from the Premiership but after a string of good results they look reasonably safe. The players will be relieved to have avoided a public flogging by the clubs new owners, the Saudi Royal Family.

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on August 10, 2021 by telescoper

Time to announce another publication in the Open Journal of Astrophysics. This one was actually published at the end of last month, but owing to the holiday season there was a delay in activating the DOI and registering the metadata  so I have delayed posting about it until just now. It is the sixth paper in Volume 4 (2021) and the 37th in all.

The latest publication is entitled Euclid: Forecasts for k-cut 3 × 2 point statistics. The first author is Peter L. Taylor of the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, USA and there are almost 100 authors altogether. This is definitely the paper with the longest author list we have published so far, and also the first paper we have published on behalf of the Euclid Consortium. I am a member of Euclid so I of course recused myself from the editorial process.

Here is a screen grab of the overlay which includes the abstract:

You can click on the image to make it larger should you wish to do so. You can find the arXiv version of the paper here. This one is, fairly obviously, in the Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics folder..

The Euclid Consortium has a strict protocol for papers it publishes which, together with the large number of authors, not to mention the pandemic, meant it took quite a long time to make the revisions suggested by referees. Still, it has turned out a very nice paper I think.  I am also very pleased that a major consortium such as Euclid has decided to publish in OJAp.

We have another bunch of papers in the pipeline – in fact one further has already been published – so watch this space for further developments!

I’ll end with a reminder to prospective authors that the OJA  now has the facility to include supplementary files (e.g. code or data sets) along with the papers we publish. If any existing authors (i.e. of papers we have already published) would like us to add supplementary files retrospectively then please contact us with a request!

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2021 by telescoper

Time to announce another publication in the Open Journal of Astrophysics. This one was published yesterday, actually, but I didn’t get time to post about it until just now. It is the third paper in Volume 4 (2021) and the 34th paper in all.

The latest publication is entitled Dwarfs from the Dark (Energy Survey): a machine learning approach to classify dwarf galaxies from multi-band images and is written by Oliver Müller  of the Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg (France) and Eva Schnider of the University of Basel (Switzerland).

Here is a screen grab of the overlay which includes the abstract:


You can click on the image to make it larger should you wish to do so. You can find the arXiv version of the paper here. This one is in the Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics Folder, though it does overlap with Astrophysics of Galaxies too.

It seems the authors were very happy with the publication process!

Incidentally, the Scholastica platform we are using for the Open Journal of Astrophysics is continuing to develop additional facilities. The most recent one is that the Open Journal of Astrophysics now has the facility to include supplementary files (e.g. code or data sets) along with the papers we publish. If any existing authors (i.e. of papers we have already published) would like us to add supplementary files retrospectively then please contact us with a request!

Not the Euclid Consortium Meeting

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on May 4, 2020 by telescoper

It’s a bright sunny Bank Holiday Monday and I’m here in my flat in Maynooth taking a coffee break before resuming work from home.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak started I had imagined that I’d be spending this week (or at least most of it) in Sitges near Barcelona for the annual Euclid Consortium Meeting which was planned to take place there. That has understandably been cancelled and replaced with a virtual meeting. Yet more Zoom sessions beckon…

Over the past weeks my workload has increased enormously but I’ve tried to clear the decks a little so I can tune in to some of the sessions but I won’t be able to make them all or even most.

I hope the virtual meeting goes well. Euclid is due to be launched in 2022 so time is getting short and there is much preparatory work still to do.

Well, talking of work I better get back to it! The first plenary is not until this afternoon and I’ve lots to do before then.

I wonder if normality will have returned in time for there to be a Euclid Consortium Meeting next year?

Hello Helsinki!

Posted in Biographical with tags , , on June 3, 2019 by telescoper

This picture will show you that I am not in Maynooth…

In fact I am in Helsinki. Here is a better picture of the splendid Cathedral behind me in the selfie.

The Cathedral is Lutheran by the way. I’m not sure Luther was into cathedrals, but there you go..

It’s about a three hour direct flight from Dublin to Helsinki via Finnair (and a two hour time difference) but all went according to plan. I also found my accommodation without difficulty: it seems comfortable enough.

I took a long walk around this afternoon because the weather is lovely and I wanted to stretch my legs after the flight. It’s a very pleasant city for a stroll, with lots of public spaces and plenty of places to stop for a coffee or something stronger.

All that done, it’s time for dinner!

The reason for being here, by the way, is the annual Euclid Consortium meeting but enough of that tomorrow..