Preserving the Astronomical Sky

An IAU-UN Special Environmental Symposium
12-16 July 1999,  Vienna Austria

  This IAU Symposium No. 196 is sponsored by Commission 50 of the International Astronomical Union (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) .

International Co-sponsors:

Scientific Organizing Committee: Local Organizing Committee: Editors of the Proceedings:  R.J. Cohen and W.T. Sullivan.

Registration Fee:  Approximately US$120 [details to be decided in Oct. 1998]


  Issues of the harm to astronomy from light pollution, radio frequency interference, and space debris; documentation of present status and trends in various countries and regions; techniques for successful observations in a hostile environment; regulatory strategies on international, national, and local scales; alliances between astronomers and others concerned about these issues (environmentalists, lighting engineers, radio spectrum managers, space agencies).

Scientific Rationale

  The proposed Symposium will follow up on the very successful 1988 IAU Colloquium 112 in Washington, DC ("Light Pollution, Radio Interference, and Space Debris", ed. D. L. Crawford) and the 1992 Paris workshop sponsored by UNESCO, ICSU, IAU, and COSPAR ("The Vanishing Universe: Adverse Environmental Impacts on Astronomy", ed. D. McNally). Our meeting will provide a forum for education and discussion of the issues that threaten the viability and efficiency of astronomical observations: light pollution, interference at radio frequencies, and space debris. In addition to
astronomers, the program will allow time or poster space for the viewpoints of a wide variety of other professions and interests, e.g., lighting engineers and designers, spectrum managers, radio communications firms, space agencies, environmentalists, writers and artists, etc.

  This topic is critical to the success and very survival of astronomy. This meeting will establish the nature of current problems, discuss measures to correct or improve the present situation, and then generate highly visible publicity for our views of the serious degradation of the environment in
which astronomical and space observations are made. This will be accomplished with a major effort directed toward the public and coordinated by two full-time Press Officers, as well as through informal and formal participation in UNISPACE III, the third meeting of the UN Committee for
the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (this meeting begins in Vienna the week after our own). Our meeting is being hosted by Dr. Hans Haubold, an astronomer and official in the Vienna offices of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs.

  The proposed meeting will also have a deliberative element different from the 1988 meeting and indeed quite different from the usual scientific meeting. It is vital that we take action! We are devoting about
one-quarter of the five days to working on specific resolutions and action plans in the three principal areas. Before the meeting starts, Working Groups led by SOC members will have developed draft resolutions and proposals, and then during the meeting these will be debated and refined.
This Symposium of course will have no more "official" status than the prestige of its participants. But we plan that the output of this meeting will be input to many other organizations (including of course the IAU) for action over the next year or two -- for example, in the autumn of 1999 the International Telecommunications Union will be holding a World Allocations Radio Conference (WARC) in Geneva that will be critical for radio astronomy. From the 1997 GA, we plan to build on IAU Resolution 1A ("Protection of the Night Sky") and on the Radio Observatory Directors' "Kyoto Declaration".
Draft Program:

(Only a few of the suggested speakers are confirmed.)

  Program for 5 days: (a) 2.8 days of general and plenary sessions: light pollution (1.1 days), radio interference (1.3 days), space debris (0.4 days), (b) 1.0 day of break-out into smaller topical groups for more specialized talks and refinement of draft resolutions, (c) 0.7 day of reports from topical groups, revision of resolutions, etc., and (d) 0.5 day for introduction, wrap-up, and smaller topics. The following gives an idea of the topics that will be covered, with speakers indicated where possible.
*Light Pollution*

*Radio Interference* *Space Debris* Summary:

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