Is James Webb too polluting? “We must stop wanting new toys”

Is James Webb too polluting?  "We must stop wanting new toys"

Astronomy is a polluting science. In particular, research centers responsible for more than one million tons of CO emissions2 Every year. But there are solutions to make it a more standard part.

Explore new worlds and discover its secrets StarsFrom Constellations, Discovering extraterrestrial life … multiple dream objectives, and exactly that. But we must not forget that behind all this astronomical research, there are important technological developments with a specific pollution.

This is indicated in a study published on March 21, 2022 Natural astronomy. French researchers are trying to determine the extent to which astronomy is a polluting science. Their verdict echoes: The carbon footprint of this research area could be catastrophic with less than 1.2 million tons of CO.2 Released each year, it is five times more than previously estimated.

For a long time, the astronomical community has been looking at its carbon footprintCNRS researcher at the University of Toulouse, lead author Jர்கrgen Nodelser Details. But we wanted to focus more on observation centers on the ground and in space.

Observatories pollute more than anything else

The astronomer with his team studied the emissions of about fifty space missions and forty ground research centers, taking into account the construction of the installations, the power consumption and the cost of the missiles for the missions. By their own consent, the group did not come up with an accurate measurement of the ratio of CO2 Released into the atmosphere, but its study suggests that it could act as a starting point before further evaluations.

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What we are sure ofJürgen Knödlseder promises, These labs represent the first pollutant in the field of astronomy beyond all other causes. This is not the first time this field of study has been subjected to climate self-criticism. In September 2020, A whole series of studies appeared Natural Aims to study the carbon impact of astronomy, but also to provide solutions to reduce it.

The authors later concluded that there were several margins of progress:

  • For the first time, multiply video conferences and avoid flying as much as possible to attend meetings. A change that is encouraged Health crisis ;
  • Use renewable energy to operate supercomputers responsible for calculations and data processing. These are very powerful computer systems and, as the data received is increasing every day, are called for further expansion.

At the time, these studies were well received by the scientific community, which welcomed this position and promised efforts to mitigate the environmental impact of the discipline.

Vera-C.-Rubin’s laboratory is under construction. // Source: Wikimedia / CC / Frosy (carved photo)

However, J ஆய்வுrgen Knödlseder’s study is not very popular. ” We also offer solutions, but not everyone wants it… Basically, we ask researchers to stop messing with their toys. Which is hard to accept.

James Webb, a disaster toy for the planet

This would be the symbol of the most (even?) Polluting toys James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Launched at Christmas 2021, the so-called revolutionary heir of Hubble, the true gem of technology, is also responsible for emitting at least 300,000 tons of CO.2 : This is an estimate for its entire work, from its construction to the next 5 years (low estimate, because the high estimate expects 1 million tons. CO2) Now that it’s launched, research centers that seek to retrieve its data continue to pollute offices, antennas, and computers. ” This is a large-scale project designed to last for many yearsSays Jürgen Knödlseder. Its carbon footprint is enormous, especially since it does not replace the old telescope that no other device has rested on.

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JWST is not the only one producing CO2, But in addition, it is included in older telescopes that are still in operation. If it is very polluting, it took many years to create, but the amount of data it sends is actually astronomical. More than 200 gigabytes a day between the telescope and the Earth when it is fully operational.

The study did not call for James to drop the heat, but the solutions proposed were too serious for the astronomical community. ” Efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels would be in vain if multiple centers were created. Currently, the Square Kilometer Array, a radio telescope project, is under development in South Africa and Australia, and will produce more CO2 Than JWST. Since stopping such a project would seem too complicated, the researcher proposes to replace it with other older telescopes.

We do not need so much dataJürgen condemns Knödlseder. We get so much, we can’t process them, we have to train artificial intelligence to do it for ourselves! Must know how to slow down.

Is James Webb too polluting?
Hubble Space Telescope. // Source: Flickr / CC / Nasa on Commons (carved photo)

The fall of science will be a solution, according to astronomers, to do less, and above all to be satisfied with what we have. ” There are archives that have not been used for dozens of years where treasures can be hidden. At the moment, I am only working with this old enough data. Maybe I’m going slow, maybe a little less, but I do not need to keep everything immediately.

The researcher recognizes that the advancement of science is important, but not at any cost. ” Emergency today Climate change. We cannot ignore it.

Because tomorrow, important discoveries may be due to JWST, but it is not always so. In 1995, first புறக்கோள் The discovery was the result of a study by the Hot-Provence Laboratory, an object far removed from the sophisticated state of technology. So science can be done with restraint.

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