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The point of view of Debra Elmegreen, President, International Astronomical Union (IAU)

"We are all together under one sky"

Season 1, episode 50
4 min / Published

The IAU was founded in 1919, it’s the worldwide organization of professional astronomers with 12,000 members from 83 countries.

Our original purpose was to foster worldwide coordination and exchange of astronomical information; now our goals have been expanded to promote the inclusive advancement of astronomy, to promote the use of astronomy as a tool for development, to engage the public in astronomy, and to stimulate STEM education through astronomy.

Two areas regarding a sustainable world that impact and involve astronomy are dark skies and climate change.  Light pollution is becoming a serious problem. We need to maintain dark skies so that we can all continue to enjoy our view of space, so that wildlife natural rhythms are not disrupted, and so that astronomers can continue to do observations from the ground to understand our Universe. And despite the undisputed merit of satellite communication constellations, their unprecedented large number is creating several challenges that hinder optical and radio astronomy. Our new Center for the Protection of Dark and Quiet Skies will work with the United Nations and other organizations on concrete actions to help mitigate the negative impact of satellite constellations.

We also need to tackle the problems associated with climate change, and astronomers can make an impact on this issue by helping to inform the public. We can educate about climate change from the perspective of studying evolution of atmospheres on the Earth and other planets. Our continued studies of astronomical objects and of Earth from space will help in our understanding of these issues. Through our outreach programs we can impress upon the public and schoolchildren that our pale blue dot needs protecting.

Astronomy inspires natural curiosity and so draws schoolchildren to STEM fields. Helping their education and their teachers’ development through training, workshops, and symposia will lead to a generation better able to tackle this transition.

It is vital that we engage a diverse and inclusive global community in these problems, since that will broaden ideas and perspectives and lead to better solutions. We hope to accomplish this through our various outreach, educational, and professional astronomer meetings. Ultimately such broad involvement is vital for the well-being of our planet.

Always remember that “We are all together under one sky.”


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This episode is part of the SPACE FOR OUR PLANET series
Space solutions for a sustainable world
A podcast by Space4ourplanet
Space solutions for a sustainable world
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