IUA and International Partners urge UN to protect Dark and Quiet Skies

Source: International Astronomical Union (IAU)

The IAU, together with partner organisations, has submitted a new Working Paper to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), seeking to protect dark and quiet skies from interference by human activities. The paper was accepted for discussion at the opening of the 59th session of the COPUOS Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) — the first time that the issue of dark and quiet skies has been tabled as a formal agenda item by the UN. Co-signed by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO), the paper has been endorsed by Austria, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Slovakia and Spain. One of the main outcomes of this work is that UN COPUOS have decided to keep dark and quiet skies on the agenda for the 2023 STSC meeting.

As well as being a natural source of wonder, the pristine night sky has long been a stimulus to scientific exploration and discovery, and an invaluable aspect of humanity’s shared cultural heritage. As the prevalence of artificial light has increased, however, the visibility of the night sky has been greatly reduced around the world. And in the past few years, an even bigger threat has emerged as large constellations of satellites have been launched into low Earth orbit, in much greater numbers than ever before.

Although these satellites are important, for instance to provide Internet access to underserved regions, they have a number of detrimental effects on astronomy, owing to their brightness in the sky, their combined radio emissions and the sheer number of them. There could be up to 100 000 such satellites in orbit by the 2030s, meaning that at any point in time more than 5000 might be detectable above a typical mid-latitude observatory. In addition to disrupting visible-light observations, their radio emissions will be enough to contaminate the measurements of highly sensitive radio telescopes.

Source: https://www.iau.org/news/announcements/detail/ann22010/

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