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Environmental Issues and Astronomy: An Introductory Resource Guide

 

3. Radio Interference

Radio astronomer search for "faint" radio static from cosmic objects. Increasingly, the signals they are searching for are lost in the "din" of terrestrial radio communications, particularly the requirements of cellular phones and other modern communications using satellites. Major political battles loom as the demands of business clash with the need to protect certain important channels for radio astronomy.

Readings

Carpenter, S. "Lost Space: Rising Din Threatens Radio Astronomy" in Science News, Sep. 11, 1999, vol. 156, p. 168. Good summary of current situation.

Cohen, J. "Radio Pollution: The Invisible Threat to Radio Astronomy" in Astronomy & Geophysics (a journal of the Royal Astronomical Society), Dec. 1999, vol. 40, issue 6, p. 8. Good review from a European perspective.

Cohen, N. & Clegg, A. "What Should We Do about Radio Interference?" in Mercury, Sep/Oct. 1995, p. 10. A point-counterpoint discussion.

Feder, T. "Europe's Radio Astronomers Score in Spectrum Battle" in Physics Today, Oct. 1998, p. 75. Brief news item about Iridium satellites.

Jackson, C. "The Allocation of the Radio Spectrum" in Scientific American, Feb. 1980. Saving the "channels" radio astronomers need from being used for terrestrial purposes.

Pankonin, V. "Protecting Radio Windows for Astronomy" in Sky & Telescope, Apr. 1981, p. 308.

Roth, J. "Will the Sun Set on Radio Astronomy?" in Sky & Telescope, Apr. 1997, p. 40. Explains the "pollution" of the radio spectrum by human activities.

"Cell Phones Threaten Radio Telescope" in Science, vol. 278, p. 1569 (28 Nov. 1997). Short news article on a problem in India.

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4. Preventing the Contamination of Earth or Other Worlds

As our robot probes travel to the other bodies in our solar system, and even begin to return samples of these other worlds to Earth, we must confront the issue of planetary contamination. How do we keep our microbes from hitching a ride to other worlds, and how do we prevent any possible microbes from Mars or Europa (for example) from returning to Earth and (possibly) harming life on our planet?

Readings

Hargrove, E., ed. Beyond Spaceship Earth: Environmental Ethics and the Solar System. 1886, Sierra Club Books. Essays on exploiting or preserving planets, on implications of space exploration, on pollution in space, etc.

Miller, R. "The Natural Universe" in Mercury, Jan/Feb. 1997, p. 27. An environmental reporter muses on the effects the discovery of life on Mars would have on our concerns for the environment.

Miller, R. "To Preserve and Protect" in Mercury, Mar/Apr. 1999, p. 33. Proposes an astro-environmental view for space exploration.

Pendick, D. "The Real Men in Black" in Astronomy, July 1999, p. 36. Profile of John Rummel, NASA's Planetary Protection Officer, whose task it is to see that micro-organisms from other worlds don't contaminate the Earth.

Race, M. & Rummel, J. "Bring 'em Back Alive (or at Least Carefully)" in Ad Astra (the journal of the National Space Society), Jan/Feb. 1999, p. 37. [This article is also available on line; see below.]

Sagan, C., et al. "Planetary Protection" in The Planetary Report (the magazine of the Planetary Society), Jul/Aug. 1994, p. 3. Special issue devoted to the topic.

Web Sites

NOTE: I would like to thank Margaret Race and David Finley for their assistance with this bibliography.

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