Archive for Euclid

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.

–o–

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.

Can SpaceX save Euclid?

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on July 23, 2022 by telescoper

A little over a month ago I posted a piece about the European Space Agency’s Euclid Mission which had been due to be launched in 2023 on a Soyuz ST 2-1b rocket. That no longer being possible because of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, it seemed there would be a lengthy delay in the launch of Euclid, with late 2024 seeming the earliest feasible date for launch on the obvious alternative, the new Ariane 6.

I ended that piece with this:

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.

In the Dark, 17th June

I have heard various rumours since then but yesterday I saw a piece by Paris-based astronomer Henry Joy McCracken (a famous name in Ireland) that reveals that a proposal is being actively investigated to launch Euclid on a Falcon 9 rocket operated by Elon Musk’s outfit SpaceX. If all goes well it might be possible to launch Euclid by the end of 2023, and at a fraction of the cost of the alternative Ariane 6-2.

Setting aside any personal opinions about Elon Musk, the Falcon 9 has proved to be very reliable, with the latest version having 110 out of 110 successful launches. Euclid will not be in an Earth orbit, like most of the satellites so far launched by SpaceX, but has to be delivered to the 2nd Lagrange Point, L2. That should not pose to much of a difficulty.

As far as I understand it the decision whether or not this is feasible will be taken later this year after extensive engineering tests, especially to see how Euclid can cope with the spectrum of vibrations generated by Falcon 9. There’s no guarantee this will work out but it might just save a lot of money and a lot of careers.

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…

Euclid Launch Concern

Posted in Politics, Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on April 27, 2022 by telescoper

I saw the following picture on Twitter. It was taken during a talk at the annual Euclid Consortium Meeting (which I am not at) and it gives a not -very-optimistic update about the timescale for the launch of Euclid.

Picture Credit: Hervé Aussel

I thought a delay in the launch was inevitable as soon as news broke of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (see here) because the original plan was to launch on a Russian Soyuz vehicle. The subsequent decision by the Russians to remove all their personnel from the launch site at Kourou (see here) made these even more likely, although according to the slide not certain.

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 payloads 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 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, which is what the last lines of the slide are about.

Being one of life’s pessimists I think a long delay is the likeliest outcome, though this is not based on any specific knowledge at all about the discussions going on and I’d be delighted to be proved wrong. I am now however seriously wondering whether Euclid will be launched before I retire!

The Little Things

Posted in Biographical, Politics with tags , , , , on February 25, 2022 by telescoper

Yesterday morning I heard the news about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine via the radio as soon as it woke me up at 7am. It took me a while to summon up the energy to get out of bed and get ready for my 9am lecture. The routine things of life seem so trivial and futile compared to wars and other disasters over which one has no influence. But it does not help Ukraine (nor anyone else, including yourself) to be overwhelmed by despair. So I got up and did my lecture, as I did this morning with a 9am tutorial.

Somehow, it feels like a duty to persevere. I think that’s partly because the tyrants of this world want people to feel powerless. By persisting with the little things you are, in a very small way, defying those who want you to be terrified. The image of Vladimir Putin as some sort mastermind, a Karla-like bogeyman with strategic superpowers, has hypnotized too many. He’s just a sad old relic of the Cold War.

I try to resist looking at the news too often, my desire to stay informed tempered by a wish to remain sane. I’d like to believe that the Ukrainians can hold out, but they’re massively outnumbered and outgunned so the odds are heavily against them. But they’re fighting on their home soil for a just cause against an invader. That should count for something. The longer they can hold out wear down the Russian army the more chance there is that the tide will turn against Putin at home.

I doubt that sanctions from the West will have any impact on Putin’s murderous intentions, at least not in the short term. In any case they look weak to me. Russian teams are still playing in UEFA tournaments, and Russia will still be in Eurovision. Why is this tolerated?

I spent an hour yesterday on a zoom call related to the European Space Agency’s Euclid mission, which is due to be launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2023. The latest batch of sanctions may lead to a delay in Euclid or even its cancellation. That would be a major problem for many scientists around the world. It’s a big thing for us, but it gets smaller when you compare it with what’s happening in the world. I bet a majority of us working in cosmology would prefer to see Euclid scrapped altogether than see further death and destruction unfold. I know I would.

It wouldn’t work that way, of course, but the question we have to ask ourselves is who are we happy to do business with? How could you sleep at night after giving money to or taking money from the Kremlin or its proxies? Maybe Putin will succeed only in giving the West a renewed sense of moral certainty.

For years the West has been corrupted by dirty money from Russia’s gangster oligarchs. Now Ukraine is paying the price. We’ve been far too slow to understand the true nature of who and what we’ve been dealing with. Now it’s time to get serious. “Business as usual” no longer applies, at least not with Russia…

A Piece of Euclid

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on January 6, 2022 by telescoper

Fame at last! A colleague from the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University told me the above piece appeared in today’s Irish Times so I rushed out and bought the paper. My rapture was rapidly modified however when I discovered that my name was given incorrectly (as Cole instead of Coles), but that was to some extent offset by the amusement it would give my colleagues to see me described as an “Experiment Physicist”. These two slips are now corrected in the online version of the article which you can find here.

I was quite surprised by the sudden appearance of the article today because I spoke to the writer, Seán Duke, about Euclid well over a year ago (May 2020). That’s the reason that some things are a bit out of date. For example, the launch of Euclid will now not take place until the first quarter of 2023. Also the piece states that the largest telescope in space is the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) which is no longer the case (as of Christmas Day 2021…).

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the student to spot any other errors. Please feel free to point them out through the Comments Box. If you’re not banned, that is…

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!

R.I.P. Olivier Le Fèvre (1960-2020)

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on June 29, 2020 by telescoper

Olivier Le Fèvre (1960-2020)

The international cosmological community was deeply saddened last week to hear of the death on 25th June after a long illness of Olivier Le Fèvre. He was 59 years old.

Olivier was a specialist in astronomical spectroscopy and as such he made important contributions to cosmology through galaxy redshift surveys. He was Director of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille from 2004 to 2011. In latter years he was involved, among many other things, in the Euclid space mission.

You can find a full obituary and appreciation of Olivier’s life and work here. His funeral takes place this morning and there is an online book of condolence here to send messages of condolence and support to his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.

Rest in peace, Olivier Le Fèvre (1960-2020).

Euclid Updates

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on June 17, 2019 by telescoper

Following the Euclid Consortium Meeting in Helsinki a couple of weeks ago, here are a couple of updates.

First, here is the conference photograph so you can play Spot The Telescoper:

(The picture was taken from the roof of the Finlandia Hall, by the way, which accounts for the strange viewpoint.

The other update is that the European Space Agency has released a Press Release releasing information about the location on the sky of the planned Euclid Deep Fields. Here they are (marked in yellow):

These deep fields amount to only about 40 square degrees, a small fraction of the total sky coverage of Euclid (~15,000 square degrees), but the Euclid telescope will point at them multiple times in order to detect very faint distant galaxies at enormous look-back times to study galaxy evolution. It is expected that these fields will produce several hundred thousand galaxy images per square degree…

Selecting these fields was a difficult task because one has to avoid bright sources in both optical and infrared (such as stars and zodiacal emission) so as not to mess with Euclid’s very sensitive camera. Roberto Scaramella gave a talk at the Helsinki Meeting showing how hard it is to find fields that satisfy all the constraints. The problem is that there are just too many stars and other bits of rubbish in the sky getting in the way of the interesting stuff!

 

For much more detail see here.

 

Equality, Diversity and Euclid

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on June 7, 2019 by telescoper

So here I am, back in my hotel, after the second pleasant wine and food reception of the week – this time hosted by the University of Helsinki. I have to leave early tomorrow morning to get back to Maynooth so I’m not among those going for dinner afterwards.

It’s been a very satisfying meeting, in terms of scientific content, organization and even the weather which has been warm and sunny throughout.

That said I feel obliged to mention one less than satisfactory episode which happened this afternoon. Euclid is a very large consortium working on a complex mission. That requires certain management structures to be put in place, including how to deal with the many scientific publications that will hopefully result from the Euclid mission to be as fair as possible to everyone working on the various projects as well as ensuring the scientific quality of resulting papers.

This afternoon a very distinguished senior member of the Euclid Consortium presented an overview of the publication policy on behalf of the Editorial Board which included this slide:

Not knowing all the names I didn’t think twice about the various panels until at the end of the talk a member of the audience pointed out that none of the individuals named are female.

I wasn’t alone in being surprised that such a situation had arisen, especially since Euclid has a Diversity Committee. But what made matters worse was the apparently dismissive response of the speaker, which caused a sharp intake of breath around the auditorium, and left many with the impression that the Consortium needs to look at whether unconscious or other bias might have been involved in the selection of these members. The impression given may have been inadvertent but appearances matter, and I know I’m not the only person who was troubled by what went on this afternoon. I sincerely hope the Diversity Committee looks into this issue as soon as possible.

UPDATE: 21st June 2019. I understand that this issue has been looked into in depth by the Euclid Consortium and active measures are being taken to improve the gender balance in future, which is a very positive outcome.