Researchers from the Université de Toulouse have tried to calculate the entire global footprint of space science, including ground-based and space-based observatories. The paper is published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
The research team suggests the footprint of space science adds up to 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year, and it has a lifetime footprint of 20.3 million metric tons. The University of Strathclyde described the difficulty in calculating the footprint of astronomical research efforts. The methods used to outline the work done by the team with this new effort.
The work by the Researchers involved obtaining and scouring prior astronomy research papers that included descriptions of the amount of energy used during 46 space-based projects and 39 ground-based. Such projects included things like the construction and operation of new observatories and the launching of space-based observatories.
Researchers also noted projections for energy costs needed to maintain such projects over their lifetime. The team then expanded their effort to make estimations, using data from their work, regarding the total amount of carbon released by the astronomy community worldwide. The Researchers noted that due to the unique nature of the work done by the astronomy community, it is essential that they set themselves as an excellent example of planet caretakers. They suggest the astronomy community needs to slow down its planning and construction phases to include tallies of a carbon footprint.