SETI ASTRONOMY AT RISK FROM SPACE ENVIRONMENT DEGRADATION


Larry Klaes (lklaes@bbn.com)
Fri, 02 Jul 1999 14:05:34 -0400


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>Date: Fri, 2 Jul 1999 12:06:31 +0200 (MET DST)
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>From: ESO Education and Public Relations Dept.
>
>Date: Friday, July 2, 1999
>
>Subject: ASTRONOMY AT RISK FROM SPACE ENVIRONMENT DEGRADATION (IAU PR 02/99)
>
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>Text with all links is available on the IAU Website at URL:
>
>http://www.iau.org/sym196pr.html
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>
>The attached information about an important astronomical meeting, IAU
>Symposium 196 on "Preserving the Astronomical Sky" (July 12-16 -
>Vienna. Austria), is distributed on behalf of the International
>Astronomical Union (IAU). The original URL is:
>
>http://www.iau.org/sym196pr.html
>
>Note in particular that a Press Conference will be held at the end of
>the meeting on July 16.
>
>ESO EPR Dept.
>
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> ASTRONOMY AT RISK FROM
> SPACE ENVIRONMENT DEGRADATION
>
> Scientists Will Meet in Vienna to Discuss
> Increasing Man-Made Environmental Problems
> for the Oldest Science
>
>
>
>IAU Press Release 02/99
>
>July 2, 1999:
>
>FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
>
>Astronomy, a science that has been a leading engine of human progress since
>ancient times, now finds itself increasingly at risk from a new type of
>environmental degradation - that of space itself. Astronomers from around
>the world will gather in Vienna (Austria) on July 12 - 16 to discuss the
>threats of light pollution, radio interference and space debris to their
>research.
>
>"The rapidly-accelerating exploitation of space is quickly degrading an
>environment that has been declared 'the common heritage of all mankind,'"
>says Dr. Johannes Andersen, General Secretary of the International
>Astronomical Union (IAU), and adds : "Because astronomers must use extremely
>sensitive instruments to study very faint and distant objects in the
>universe, they are the first to feel the effects of this degradation.
>However, they will not be alone for long."
>
>The Vienna meeting, an IAU-COSPAR-UN (International Astronomical Union -
>COmmittee on SPAce Research - United Nations) Special Environmental
>Symposium (IAU Symposium 196), will focus on three major threats to
>astronomical research.
>
>In space, interference at radio frequencies from telecommunications
>satellites and their ever-increasing demand for new wavebands cloud the
>future of radio astronomy and the communication with scientific satellites.
>Space debris is a growing threat to scientific satellites and also
>interferes with ground-based observations.
>
>There also are projects to launch highly luminous objects into space for
>various purposes such as earth illumination and artistic, celebratory, or
>advertising goals. Depending on the size, reflectivity and orbital
>charateristics, they could be devastating to all of observational astronomy.
>
>On the ground, man-made light pollution has already made large areas of the
>world unsuitable for astronomical observations. Radio astronomers are now
>concerned about growing levels of radio pollution and its effect on existing
>and planned radio observatories.
>
>Several causes of these problems are global in extent and irreversible in
>time, so it is urgent to address them now.
>
>Specialists from all over the world will attend the IAU Symposium at the UN
>facilities in Vienna (Austria). The theme is "Preserving the Astronomical
>Sky" and the meeting is part of the Technical Forum of the Third United
>Nations Global Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer
>Space (UNISPACE III). The theme of this conference is "Space Benefits for
>Humanity in the Twenty-first Century." It is convened as a special session
>of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and is open to
>all member states of the United Nations, international organizations and
>space industry).
>
>The threats to astronomy jeopardize a science that has contributed to human
>progress for thousands of years. From producing the calendar that made
>agriculture possible to making modern medical imaging and telecommunications
>more effective, astronomy has changed life for the better in innumerable
>ways. Today, astronomical research is the only way for scientists to use the
>"cosmic laboratory" of the universe, containing extreme conditions of
>temperatures, pressures, densities, etc., from which new insights about
>fundamental physics - and possibly entire new technologies - will emerge.
>
>In addition, understanding the nature of the Universe is one of mankind's
>oldest and strongest fascinations. Observations of the sky above us have
>been made at all ages, our knowledge about the Universe and its mysteries
>has gradually improved and with great intellectual and technological
>efforts, we have come to better understand our distant cosmic origins and
>amazingly small niche in space and time. The intellectual adventure of this
>quest inspires people of all ages, and is a particularly powerful tool for
>attracting young people to the scientific and technical career fields that
>build economic strength.
>
>Observations at all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, from the
>ground and from space, have been vital in the phenomenal progress in all
>areas of astronomy in the 20th century. They range from the exploration of
>the solar system to discoveries of the echo of the Big Bang and the
>beginnings of structure in the Universe. Most recently, new and powerful
>research facilities have found planets around other stars and many
>scientists are convinced that we may one day discover distant Earth-like
>abodes that could also harbour life.
>
>Nevertheless, continued scientific studies by all nations of the origin and
>evolution of the Universe are now being jeopardized by man-made
>environmental problems of rapidly growing severity.
>
>In Vienna, the Symposium participants will hear reports of astronomers and
>other scientists from many different disciplines and geographical areas
>about the increasing problems; this will include a number of audio-visual
>demonstrations. The participants will attempt to establish a global overview
>of the current status. They will evaluate the severity of the various
>threats and their progression. Where possible, constructive measures of
>alleviation will be proposed. They will discuss means to call attention to
>the increasingly dramatic situation. They will pass on their findings and
>formal recommendations to the participants in UNISPACE III, for
>consideration during the impending review and update of the UN Space
>Treaties that will be carried out by the Legal Subcommittee of the UN
>Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) on this occasion.
>
>Arrangements for the Media
>
>All media representatives are welcome to be present at IAU Symposium 196
>("Preserving the Astronomical Sky"), and will have the opportunity to
>interact with the participating scientists. Please note that you must
>preregister with the UN Information Service (UNIS) in Vienna to get access
>to the site (Ms. Veronica Mayerhofer, UNIS Accreditation Service, Tel.:
>+43-1-26060-2242).
>
>A Press Conference will be held on the UN premises in Vienna on Friday, July
>16, 1999, at 12:30 local time (CEST) during which the outcome of the meeting
>will be summed up by key participants in this Symposium.
>
>Media representatives who wish to report on this meeting are invited to
>contact soonest one of the Press and Media Officers:
>
> David Finley (NRAO)
> National Radio Astronomy Observatories, Socorro, NM, USA
> email: dfinley@nrao.edu
> Tel: +1-(505) 835-7302
> Fax: +1-(505) 835-7027
>
> Richard West (ESO)
> European Southern Observatory, Garching, Germany
> email: rwest@eso.org
> Tel: +4989-32006276
> Fax: +4989-32-2362
>
>Information about IAU Symposium 196
>
>More information about IAU Symposium 196 and the detailed scientific
>programme is available at the dedicated website:
>http://www.darksky.org/ida/iau196/
>
>The symposium is sponsored by the International Astronomical Union and
>organized by Commission 50 of (Protection of Existing and Potential
>Observatory Sites), with the support of Commissions 9 (Instrumentation), 21
>(Light of the Night Sky), 25 (Photometry), 40 (Radio Astronomy), 46
>(Education), and 51 (Bioastronomy: Search for Extraterrestrial Life).
>
>The International Co-sponsors are COSPAR, the UN Office for Outer Space
>Affairs, International Commission on Illumination (CIE), URSI, IAF, ICSU,
>UNESCO, IUCAF, International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), and others.
>
>IAU website: http://www.iau.org
>
>UNISPACE III website: http://www.un.or.at/OOSA/unisp-3/frontpage.html
>
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>
>For more information, contact the Secretariat or the Press and Media
>Officers, indicated above.
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>The International Astronomical Union (IAU), founded in 1919, is the
>international non-governmental organization uniting professional astronomers
>all over the world. It currently has 61 Member States and over 8,300
>Individual Members in 83 countries. Its scientific activities are
>coordinated by 11 Divisions and 40 Commissions spanning the entire field of
>astronomy. The IAU is integrated in the international scientific community
>through its membership of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and
>represents astronomy in committees of the UN and other international
>organizations. The permanent IAU Secretariat is located in Paris, France.
>(see below).
>
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