Christmas with Santa Claus - This year only using SMS #7

Santa Announcement Date : 

The Institute of Astrophysics - FORTH is getting ready for yet another year to observe, using the telescopes of Skinakas Observatory, the  annual route of Santa Claus from Rovaniemi, Finland, where he relaxes during the year, to the island of Crete and specifically to the city of Heraklion.

Last year's photo of Santa Claus and his sleight, just before sunrise on December 25, 2019,  at the time of his departure from Heraklion, after distributing the gifts to the worthy persons of the city. Note that the sleigh is located just above the 1.3m telescope of the Skinakas Observatory and it’s moving west, away from the sun.

"Unfortunately, the situation this year was much more complicated", said the Director of the Institute of Astrophysics, Professor Vassilis Charmandaris. "Mr. Georgios Aifantis, the ambassador of Greece in Finland, informed us that as a result of the restrictive measures imposed by the Greek government due to the pandemic, it was not clear whether this year's visit of Santa Claus to Crete would be possible", he continued. "The measures, as we all know, are quite strict. Moreover, it was not foreseen to include of Santa's profession – Code: category "trade of gifts, retail" - among those who have the right to move freely on Christmas Eve in general, let alone after midnight! Obviously Father Christmas was deeply concerned about the possibility of being arrested during his passage through Greece, which would jeopardize the distribution of the gifts to the rest of the world, no matter how fast his sleigh was moving."

Fortunately the solution was found at the last minute thanks to the excellent cooperation between the Institute of Astrophysics and the Institute of Computer Science of FORTH and more specifically the signal processing laboratory of Professor Panagiotis Tsakalides as well as the information systems laboratory of Professor Dimitris Plexousakis, who is also  Director of the Institute of Computer Science,.

"The Director of the Institute of Astrophysics informed us about this important problem Crete, as well as the rest of Greece, was facing. Given the internationally known expertize of our Institute not only in basic science but also in applied research and services, we decided to be part of the solution" said Prof. Plexousakis. "Although I wanted to, I could not address the issue myself due to my administrative duties as Director of the Institute and the heavy workload I have as Deputy Director of the entire FORTH, which takes a substantial part of my time. However, the team of my laboratory has extensive experience and my colleague Prof. Tsakalides undertook the coordination on behalf of our Institute", Plexousakis concluded.

"We have collaborated many times in the past with members of the Institute of Astrophysics with great success, but mainly in European FP7 and Horizon2020 project", continued Prof. Tsakalides. "This challenge, of course, was clearly substantial greater because of the global impact of Santa, it is not a simple European project. Furthermore, the pressure to deliver was extremely high" said former Rector of the Univ. of  Crete, who has returned with a renewed enthusiasm to his research and teaching duties.

The solution that was finally implemented was to take advantage of the existing SMS infrastructure developed by the Ministry of Digital Government. The minister Mr. Kyriakos Pierakakis, gave his approval, perhaps because he also has close ties with the island of Crete. As a result, anyone was wishes to receive her/his gift from Santa this year should simply send an SMS to the well-known number 13033 with the new code "7" followed by the name and exact address of the residence. This personal invitation meets the requirements of the law, at least for the holiday season. Santa Claus already knows if this person is eligible to receive a gift since the information about the behavior of all of us during 2020 was mailed by post to Rovaniemi just before the lockdown.

"I urge you to pay close attention so that your SMS does not include the VAT number of the interested person (or guardian if the recipient of the gift is a minor) because we will face GDPR problems" insisted Prof. Plexousakis. "The fines are very high and the members of both institutes will have to go around all over Crete for days singing Christmas carols in order to collect the required amount if - god forbid - we are fined."

The SMS messages are forwarded directly to Finland and are converted from digital to analog form with a special software developed by the signal processing lab of ICS. The software pipeline has been installed at the Honorary Consulate of  Greece in Rovaniemi, in the office of the honorary consul Markus Aarto. Each message will then be printed and placed in special envelopes which will be picked up by a sleigh led by Rudolph himself, the experienced reindeer of Saint Nick. It is well known that Santa does not use a mobile phone but relies of letters for also communication. Due to his advanced age he also suffers from far-sightedness and avoids reading messages while riding the sleigh at high speed because the fines  once he enters the Athens FIR are really astronomical!

"I am extremely satisfied that once again a concrete solution has been given to such an important issue," concluded the Director of the Skinakas Observatory. "We feared that we had reached an impasse and the tradition of sharing gifts that brings so much joy to young and old alike, would be disrupted this year due to the pandemic. However, two institutes of the most prestigious research foundation of our country came together and we have succeeded. Our telescopes in Skinakas will be able to capture the image of Santa and his sleight in a few days, as we did last year. Furthermore, this success makes us optimistic to continue our fruitful collaboration since we plan to participate in the Space Surveillance and Tracking programs of the European Space Agency and the European Commission, responding to the plans the Greek government is drafting. Rudolph's sleigh is a fast moving  target. Obviously capturing its image from Skinakas will be clear evidence to our European Commission evaluators on the quality of the infrastructures of FORTH as well as that we can observe other moving targets, such as MEOs and GEO satellites or even UFOs, if necessary."