Effects of Global Warming: Our Universe Could Disappear From Sight

to really motivate the kind of action that is needed.” And that’s why, for the moment, Santana-Ros and his team will just have to keep their fingers crossed and hope for the best. Toni Santana-Ros is an asteroid hunter, peering up at the night sky to watch space rocks swimming along our solar system’s gravitational tides. Last year, when astronomers realized an asteroid named 2022 WJ1 was headed straight for the border of Canada and the US, Santana-Ros, a planetary scientist at the University of Alicante in Spain, sprang into action with barely four hours on the clock to help pinpoint how menacing the asteroid would be. Luckily, it was small and just produced a spectacular fireball. But bushfires in the region had shut down his telescopes, and he was unable to observe the asteroid until it had already passed. Climate change is already affecting astronomy and his work, as studies have shown an increase in wildfire occurrence and severity as the years go by. With global warming ramping up, ground-based telescopes will find it harder to alert us about asteroids, show us glistening galaxies, and deliver views of mysterious exoplanets. Cyclones, floods, fires and droughts are becoming the norm in astronomy hubs, and even small changes in temperature, humidity, and steady weather can compromise stargazing nights. A recent paper outlines an ominous future for astronomy, suggesting we’ll see an increase in specific humidity and precipitable water vapor in the coming years, which could absorb the same light telescopes rely on to operate. Clara Sousa-Silva, a quantum astrophysicist at Bard College, noted that observational colleagues have complained of more and more nights lost to weather in recent years. With our present greenhouse gas emission trajectory, some models even predict that the risk of very large wildfires in the US will increase sixfold by the middle of the century, and John O’Meara, chief scientist at Mauna Kea’s Keck Observatory, is particularly worried about increases in water vapor affecting infrared observations. As humanity continues to rebel against the natural world, scientists are struggling to regain our rightful place as Earthlings, and with this paper in mind, Haslebacher believes that going forward, we should analyze trends when building telescopes. For the moment, Santana-Ros and his team will just have to keep their fingers crossed and hope for the best.

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