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PUPSS Colloquium: Samantha Lawler

Fri. Mar. 25 12:30 PM - Fri. Mar. 25 01:20 PM
Contact: Andrea Wiebe
Location: via Zoom

Dr. Samantha Lawler, Assistant Professor of Astronomy

Campion College and the Department of Physics

University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan


Megaconstellations of Satellites are About to Ruin the Night Sky for Everyone

Several companies are starting to launch megaconstellations of thousands of communication satellites (satcons), which would increase the number of active satellites in Low Earth Orbit at least twenty-fold in the next few years.  SpaceX's Starlink satcon is currently largest (over 2,000 satellites) and is adding 60 new satellites every couple of weeks.  While these satcons do allow internet access in many underserved rural and remote locations, the costs are prohibitively high for all but the most well-off customers.  These thousands of satellites each reflect sunlight, causing serious problems for research astronomy, and making anthropogenic light pollution a fully global phenomenon that cannot be escaped anywhere on Earth.  Our recent simulations show that because of geometry and the chosen satellite orbits, latitudes near 50 degrees N and S will see the worst light pollution from these satcons, with hundreds of naked-eye visible satellites all night long in the summer.  These satellites also contribute to significant atmospheric pollution, both on launch and re-entry, contribute to diffuse sky emission, and drastically increase the very real threat of Kessler Syndrome.  I will talk about how these satellites will affect stargazers and astronomers worldwide, and what you can do to help mitigation efforts.

BIO: Samantha Lawler studies the orbits of Kuiper Belt objects, exoplanets, and dust disks using optical and IR observations and dynamical simuations.  She completed her undergrad degree at Caltech, followed by two years there working with early Spitzer Space Telescope data, and then earned a Master's degree from Wesleyan University.  She completed her PhD at UBC, a postdoc at UVic, and then a Plaskett Fellowship at NRC-Herzberg, all while raising kids and getting slowly drawn further into farm life with her partner.  Somehow, magically, she found an amazing balance: she is now an assistant professor of astronomy at Campion College at the University of Regina, and lives on a 150 acre farm where she helps raise goats, chickens, and organic vegetables with her partner and kids, while enjoying and trying to protect the huge prairie skies.


Missed the talk? Watch it here: https://uwcloud.uwinnipeg.ca/s/Co9xrTs89CcLCwS