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Alarmed by Climate Change, Astronomers Train Their Sights on Earth

Alarmed by Climate Change, Astronomers Train Their Sights on Earth


Peter Kalmus, a local weather scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, started his profession trying to find gravitational waves within the universe.

“I began feeling lots of nervousness that I wasn’t committing my skills to doing one thing to cease world heating,” stated Dr. Kalmus, who harassed that he spoke for under himself, not his employer. After just a few years of analysis in astrophysics, he pivoted to finding out the physics of clouds and, later, to utilizing local weather fashions to look at the dangers of maximum warmth. (Dr. Kalmus has additionally grow to be an outspoken local weather activist who has been arrested for his protest ways.)

“I’m nonetheless type of offended that, due to policymakers not doing sufficient to cease world heating, I felt compelled to go away astrophysics and grow to be the local weather scientist,” he stated.


Telescopes should be inbuilt locations which might be excessive, dry and faraway from cities’ gentle air pollution, they usually have usually ended up in fire-prone locations like mountaintops and forests. So it got here as no shock, in 2013, when a hearth reached Australia’s Siding Spring Observatory, a sister facility to Mount Stromlo that’s situated in a nationwide park in New South Wales.

By then, astronomers had discovered some classes. Employees had maintained the grounds at Siding Spring to maintain vegetation away from telescope domes. Flames destroyed some infrastructure, however many of the observatory was spared.

“Bushfires are a standard a part of Australia’s life,” stated Céline d’Orgeville, director of the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Center, a state-of-the-art facility that opened at Mount Stromlo three years after the 2003 catastrophe. “But lately, it’s been clear that the frequency and the severity of the fires has elevated considerably.”

In 2022, a wildfire destroyed a number of buildings at Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona. And fires aren’t the one hazard: In 2020, the large Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico collapsed, partially due to repeated stress from hurricanes, in response to a 2022 forensic investigation commissioned by the National Science Foundation.

“People have grow to be acutely conscious that they really should account for local weather change once they’re going to decide on new websites,” Ms. d’Orgeville stated.

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