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What am I reading in ScholarWorks? March 2024


Brightly colored gases in night sky

Published March 22, 2024

In honor of the upcoming International Dark Sky Week (April 2–8), for this month’s What Am I Reading in ScholarWorks? let’s consider “The Case for Space Environmentalism” to which Smith’s very own dedicated dark sky advocate and professor of astronomy, James Lowenthal contributed.

This paper began as an Amicus Brief to the US Court of Appeals and as such it does an excellent job of (forgive me) grounding the issues related to space pollution: atmospheric pollution from rocket launches; optical, radio, and space astronomy disruption; light pollution; deleterious impact to animal and plant ecosystems, debris collisions and more. If the fact that a 1 cm piece of debris “is capable of disabling an active satellite” doesn’t seriously alarm you, then how about the fact that pieces as small as 1 cm are not even tracked, and according to NASA, the estimated number of particles between 1 and 10 cm is half a million! This paper compellingly lays out the framing of environmentalism and the myriad issues at stake. We don’t often think of space as part of our human environment, but after reading this paper you will understand why we must.

To view this work in Smith ScholarWorks, visit:

Astronomy Professor James Lowenthal

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Meet Jessica Ryan, Scholarly Communications Librarian

Jessica Ryan AC ’17 provides outreach, acquisition, dissemination and metadata activities for Smith ScholarWorks. She is an enthusiastic advocate for the larger ScholarWorks’ mission, helping scholarly communities flourish through open access, quick discovery, and wide dissemination of scholarly and creative content.

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