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45 years of YERAC

Submitter: Jan Noordam
Description: The first Young European Radio Astronomers Conference (YERAC) was held in Paris, in May 1968. (Of course there was a student revolt going on at the time, but astronomers do not notice such things). Since then the YERAC has been held every year, except for 1998, 2001 and 2002.

The YERAC concept is brilliant in its simplicity, and much envied by the rest of the world. It is rotated between the various radio astronomical institutes in Europe. Participants have to be young(ish) and only pay for their trip, while the host provides (simple) accomodation and food, and some drink. Most of the current leaders of our little world met for the first time at a YERAC, forging ties that have expedited many things over the years, in all kinds of ways. Sadly, participation is limited to graduate students nowadays, excluding postdocs and young engineers.

The image shows the participants of the 42th YERAC, held in Pushchino (Russia) this year. The gentleman on the far left is Academician Nikolai Kardashev, one of the giants of Russian radio astronomy. The gregarious gentleman on the front right is of course our very own Harry van der Laan, giant of Dutch and European astronomy, and one of the three far-sighted originators of YERAC (the other two were Peter Mezger and Emile Blum). Hidden among the students are the leaders of tomorrow. Keep your eyes on them.

Apart from everything else, the YERAC has played its part in the gradual thaw of the cold war, ultimately culminating in the collapse of the Berlin wall. We in Dwingeloo were very proud to host (in 1977) the first YERAC that had a delegation from the Soviet Union, organized by a glittering cast of future leaders: Vijay Kapahi, Imke de Pater, Jacqueline van Gorkom, Wil van Breughel, and yours truly. Two YERACs later, we were royally entertained in Pushchino for the first time. Since then, we have been back regularly, meeting old friends like Valery Malofeev (on the right) and Rustam Dagkesamanskii (3rd row, behind Harry).
Copyright: Pushchino Radio Astronomy Observatory
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