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Climate Change Impacts Astronomical Observations

Climate Change Impacts Astronomical Observations

Climate changes associated with global warming can affect astronomical observations. That is the result of a study involving scientists from the University of Cologne. The international research team investigated a range of climate parameters at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal in the Atacama Desert in Chile, where the European Southern Observatory (ESO) operates its telescopes. Among other things, the team evaluated the data for temperature, wind speed and wind direction, and the water vapor content in the atmosphere over a period of several decades. This revealed an increase in temperatures above the world average and also increasing image blur due to air turbulence — so-called seeing.

The study “The impact of climate change on astronomical observations” was published in a recent issue of Nature Astronomy and can be viewed online. Its results are not only important for astronomers to adapt their observations to changing environmental conditions, but must also be taken into account when planning new large telescopes — such as the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which is currently being built near the Paranal.
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