One of Europe's biggest Observatory is shutting down

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posted on Oct, 21 2012 @ 02:54 AM
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I am really feeling bad when writing this, but I just got an email from one scientist working there, who happens to be a good friend, and he confirmed that the news is true. None of this has widely been reported so far by any mainstream media.



The financial crisis threatens to shut down the Bulgarian National astronomic observatory at mount Rozhen in the Rhodope Mountains.

According to associate professor Tanyu Bonev, who is the director of the observatory, the problem regarding the financing of the work process of the scientists and the maintenance of the equipment has become chronic.


Most of you will not know it, but that was one of the last "unbiased" observatories in Europe. It was possible for the general public to "buy time", pointing the 200cm Ritchey-Chretien-Coude telescope into any spot of interest you want. It is still one of the biggest observatories on the Balkans.

Academics working there receive a salary of as little as 290BGN or 145EUR.



If we do not receive enough financial aid we will have to close down during the winter. Of course we could resume work next year as we will receive money form the new budget, but it remains unclear whether the most delicate equipment will function well after the closure. The low temperatures during the winter, especially in the mountain where the observatory was build could harm the new and precise appliances.


The national astronomical observatory in Rozhen opened doors in 1981. It was the biggest single investment of the Bulgarian authorities in scientific infrastructure. The investment amounted to over EUR 6 million and is still the biggest astronomical observatory on the Balkans and South Eastern Europe.



Some of you would think that we are talking about a big budged to keep it working - yet it is not. The annual budged needed, in order to keep it maintained is as little as 460.000 EUR. Yet the government refuses to pay more than 350.000. So at the end, a refuse of the government to spend only 110.000 EUR more annually, can be the reason to shutting it down. It's a shame.

Images taken using the Observatory:



I don't want to get into politics - all I am asking is why a government is compromising such an important location over a dispute of 110.000 Euro's? Why aren't there any reactions from the scientific community outside of Bulgaria, who work with this observatory on a daily basis, like the University of Jena / Germany?

I am Bulgarian, and I can't tell you how ashamed I feel of our politicians over the closing of the observatory.

Links to sources:

BAS Official Site - The National Astronomical Observatory Rozhen is in financial collapse


Wikipedia - The Rozhen Observatory

Is Rozhen observatory going to close down?




posted on Oct, 21 2012 @ 03:06 AM
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reply to post by absente
 
It's a shame that science often comes high up the list for budget cuts and is seen as something of a luxury. Then again, would the people of Bulgaria want their money going to an observatory whilst they're paddling in a second recession? Politicians and the people wouldn't raise a fight for what they might see as a waste of time and money.

Here on ATS we have a lot of members who just don't see the point of science and would happily close down NASA or any other astronomical or space agency. Political parties spend more on election campaigns than the money being saved in Bulgaria but people are often slow to see the value of science.



posted on Oct, 21 2012 @ 03:23 AM
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reply to post by Kandinsky
 


True, most of the people in Bulgaria don't care about science (not only in Bulgaria).

Yet the financial situation in the country isn't so bad after the "financial crisis". In fact, Bulgaria has one of the lowest budget deficits in the EU and the second-lowest debt in the EU - at the end of 2011 (!).

We are talking about lunch money here, 500k is nothing compared compared to "useless" spending of millions in other departments. And by browsing the observatory website anyone can see, that the work of the scientists there was effective, a lot of discoveries were made there.

That's what hurts me the most, and should hurt the whole scientific community.

edit:
I was at the Rozhen observatory a couple of times when I was still living in Bulgaria. I will never forget some particular people, who dedicated their whole life of working there, knowing, that they will live in misery due to the minimal salary they receive.

And yet they were always happy, eager to show new results, work with International colleagues on European projects, knowing that they have a 10 times bigger salary - It didn't matter. They took their private time to teach enthusiast like me about modern astrology, explaining, showing, etc.

In the past 10 years, every year was a struggle to survive, getting a cut from next year's budged. Now, that the fight seems lost, over 50 scientists who dedicated their life to this observatory will loose their job and their goal to support the scientific community, because the government is refusing to pay them an amount that doesn't even top the sum of one (!) of the new bullet proof BMW's they ordered this year. 24 pieces of them.
edit on 21/10/12 by absente because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 21 2012 @ 03:29 AM
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reply to post by absente
 
I wonder then if politics has reared its ugly head? Like you say, the money is pennies in the scheme of things. It's also unlikely to swing any votes or raise a political profile. Have they been running over-budget?

If you remember, Hubble has been fought over for years due to budget cuts and running over budget. Plus the politics of disinterest.

ETA - perhaps this article is relevant? >> "Hubble Psychology." It's about the belief that one's project is too important to risk closure for budget issues.
edit on 21-10-2012 by Kandinsky because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 21 2012 @ 03:44 AM
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reply to post by Kandinsky
 


Let me put it this way: The Bulgarian government build over 560 kilometers of new highways over the past 3 years. The budged needed for the Rozhen Observatory per year equals 100 meters of highway spending.

I am not sure if they were over budged, but as you said, there is a worldwide trend in cutting money for that kind of scientific research.

Sometimes I really wish to be born in the 50's and be a witness to the scientific boom that followed during the 60's, 70's and 80's, in terms of Space Exploration.



posted on Oct, 21 2012 @ 03:53 AM
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reply to post by absente
 



Sometimes I really wish to be born in the 50's and be a witness to the scientific boom that followed during the 60's, 70's and 80's, in terms of Space Exploration.


Agreed! Great times.

Then again, we both might live to see life being declared on Mars and that would represent one of the greatest moments in history. It might even generate leverage for increasing budgets.



posted on Oct, 21 2012 @ 06:31 AM
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If they wanted to keep it open without spending money they could let some retired military who get pensions man the outpost.

I'm sure they could find some retired military officer in Europe who would volunteer to man it for the winter to get away from his wife.



posted on Oct, 21 2012 @ 08:04 AM
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Originally posted by Pervius
If they wanted to keep it open without spending money they could let some retired military who get pensions man the outpost.

I'm sure they could find some retired military officer in Europe who would volunteer to man it for the winter to get away from his wife.


If they shut it down during the winter, most of the equipment would be doomed in time. It's not like putting a car into the garage for the winter. As for guards, almost all the guards at Bulgarian governmental installations of this type are people over 65 years, retirees, because they're the cheapest option.



posted on Oct, 21 2012 @ 08:12 AM
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This is indeed sad. It seems that the only alternative would be for the observatory to request that the government grant it an independent charter as a not for profit organization. It can then attempt to raise funds from private citizens as a charity. There are organizations like the Planetary Society that might be able to provide it with grants, especially if they participate in programs like Near Earth Object tracking or exoplanet research.



posted on Oct, 22 2012 @ 08:41 AM
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Originally posted by absente


Most of you will not know it, but that was one of the last "unbiased" observatories in Europe. It was possible for the general public to "buy time", pointing the 200cm Ritchey-Chretien-Coude telescope into any spot of interest you want. It is still one of the biggest observatories on the Balkans.



Care to explain the unbiased comment



posted on Oct, 22 2012 @ 08:44 AM
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It is a shame, it really is.

But it is bascially along the path of what a lot of governments are doing. Let the private sector do the heavy lifting.

Can you say Virgin Galactic?



posted on Oct, 23 2012 @ 08:01 PM
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reply to post by wmd_2008
 


Sure. By "unbiased" i ment that it was the only place where you could decide 100% what you want as a private citizen, if you pay let's say for a day. This is in relation to a thread several years ago, where ATS members were trying to get HQ pictures of the moon in several US observatories, but where told that that's not permitted. Those statements however gave birth to some theories, that there is something going on on the moon, that governments don't want us to know.

I am not believing those theories, but that's why I say that the Rozhen observatory was "unbiased", e.g. you could do whatever you want, without questions asked.





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