Lunch Session LS9  25 June 2019

The World without Astronomy: A modern view of the Impact of Astronomy

Aims and scope

What would happen if tomorrow all telescopes around the world were to be closed? Will anybody notice? A few centuries ago astronomy was an applied science and its knowledge often was a matter of survival, because it was used for navigation and time keeping. However, the last astronomical discovery with indisputable and direct practical implications - the discovery of helium - happened 150 years ago, in 1868. We have learned a lot about the Universe since then, but this is not of direct use, even if there are still ubiquitous statements that some technological spin-offs arise from the technology used by astronomy (eye surgery, yellow laser, etc.).

Why does humanity still pursue astronomical research? Is this just an expensive way to obtain pretty pictures for the weekend editions of newspapers?

A public discussion of the sociology of astronomy has not been held yet, despite the significant recent developments: astronomy has "grown up" to become a "big science", similarly to the particle physics. Larger and expensive facilities are required to study the Universe, meaning higher budgets and wider collaborations, affecting both the publishing and funding strategies that astronomers need to pursue. Additionally, the Bayesian techniques pose some very basic questions ? how robust are the scientific result that depend on the prior knowledge of the experimentalist.

In this session, we will, briefly, address some of these topics.


Invited speakers

Scientific organisers

Giacomo Beccari, Henri Boffin, Ivo Saviane (ESO)


Henri Boffin (ESO), hboffin @

Updated on Tue Dec 04 21:02:10 CET 2018