This is the essence of the talk I gave at the closing ceremony of the 2015 European Week of  Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS)  on June 26 2015 in Teneriffe.  The European week of Astronomy and Space Science is the yearly meeting of the EAS, the society that brings together the European astronomical community and aims to develop a truly European identity for this community.


Science is  first and foremost an integral, central, essential in the first meaning of the word, part of human culture.

All the human thinking, philosophy included is based at some point on observations of nature. One possible exception may be the debate on the sex of the angels, where it is difficult to find any evidence for observations.

All efforts to master our environment are based on the observation, the study, the understanding of nature.

All innovation, now a buzz word in most of our governments, is also based on scientific work. No one knows where in science one should look for the ideas that will bear fruits for human society in the coming decades. Who would have bet a penny, for  example, that general relativity would find its path into one of the most successful technological developments of the last 20 years? Or that particle physics would lead to the world wide web?

Some might think that astronomy is confined to those aspects of human culture that are far from practical considerations. I would argue on the contrary that astronomy is not only central to our philosophical considerations on the place of humans in the cosmos, we all know this, but that it has also had a massive influence on our well being.

There is no agriculture without astronomy. It is not the weather of today or yesterday that tells when seeds must be planted, but the course of seasons. And this is known by observing the position of stars in the sky.

Astronomy is at the heart of the measurement of time. And time is at the heart of the organisation of society, of all societies. Some might argue that this is an old point and that time is now measured with atomic clocks. They should remember, however, that the legal time is still linked to the astronomical time and that June 30 2015 will have one more second to readjust legal time with the astronomical one.

Astronomy has been a prime motivation and mover of space technology with all its offsprings that are now central in our daily lives: Meteorology, GPS, telecommunication, resource monitoring etc. .

Astronomy and space science have played an important role in modern geopolitics. Science and national interests  have both been at the heart of the competition to master  the space tools that are strategically and economically central for  world leadership.

Astronomy,  together with other science endeavours, like ESA, CERN, EMBL has been instrumental in the build up of a European identity, and thus in the political construction of the continent.

In Summary, the world would not tic the way it does without astronomers, and Europe would have a different existence without its science community.

At a time when pressure on public budgets is high everywhere, it is important to remember these facts, to shed the right light on our activities and to remember that we, astronomers, have contributed essential elements of our culture and well being.

The presence of  Carmen Vela,  the state secretary for science in the Spanish government, at the closing ceremony of the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS),  and that of the king of Spain to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the observatory the following day show the weight that the Spanish government and the country as a whole give to science, to curiosity driven science and to astronomy specifically. Let me express the appreciation of the whole European astronomical community for this.

We come to the close of a week in which the exchanges within the European astronomical community have stood at the centre of the happening. A rich week during which results have been presented, projects discussed, friendships developed or created. All this well knowing that our astronomical community is embedded in that of the world. This week has thus been a scientific event, a European event and one element of the  contribution of our community to the common well being.