Recent observations at Skinakas Observatory, which took place on Friday, December 20, 2019, reveal that Santa Claus, a legendary figure also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or simply Santa, is on his way to Heraklion once more this year. Although the exact date and time of the arrival are still unclear, the first estimates based on the calculations of astronomers at the Institute of Astrophysics of FORTH, suggest that the jolly bearded man will make it in town no later than midnight on December 25, 2019.
"The observations were challenging since Santa is moving fast and as you can see from the optical image we obtained, his exact position is not always visible" mentioned Dr. Tanio Diaz Santos, a Spanish astronomer who was hired at the Institute of Astrophysics earlier this month. "Luckily we were recently awarded Cycle 8 observing time with SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy of NASA" he added. "These new data will greatly facilitate our tracking capabilities since we'll be observing the path of good old Saint Nick from a high vantage point. No matter how Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, steers the sleigh of Santa, the 2.7m telescope onboard the 747 Boing of NASA and DLR will be able to track their thermal signature and spot them. Infrared observations are the key!", Dr. Diaz-Santos concluded with excitement.
"I am very pleased that in addition to cutting-edge research addressing fundamental problems in astrophysics in order to understand the distant Universe, we can also use our telescopes to provide practical information, especially for our little friends in Crete", said Prof. Vassilis Charmandaris, Director of the Institute. "We are a newly founded Institute and we are committed to excel not only in basic but also in applied astrophysical research with strong societal impact", he continued.
The arrival of Santa Claus, from Rovaniemi, Finland, where he spends most of his time, is an event that is eagerly awaited by children and adults alike, across the globe since he is distributing gifts to individuals, as long as they can prove that they behaved "properly" during the previous year.