Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

Cultural Astronomy & Skywatching

Presentation #114.05 in the session Dark Sky Heritage and Ethnoastronomy.

Published onJul 01, 2023
Cultural Astronomy & Skywatching

The relationship between astronomical observatories on Indigenous lands and the local people oftentimes is fraught with conflicts and unresolved tensions. A recent example is construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Maunakea on the Island of Hawai’i, which has sparked much debate among astronomers (Prescod- Weinstein et al., 2020). Other USA examples include the building of the Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope on Haleakala, on the Island of Maui (Rimmele and McMullin, 2016), and the Mount Graham Observatory in Arizona (Brandt, 1995). Observatories take a variety of approaches to foster better communication and to have more positive connections with local populations with varying results (TMT, 2018; Kneale, 2015). Considering this history and the real possibility of the future expansion of existing observatories, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Division C Working Group for Astronomy in Culture (WGAC), the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) partnered to create a new initiative focused on culturally sensitive sites connected to astronomy. When creating the committee, it was important to include people outside the astronomical community including cultural astronomers, anthropologists, and other experts. This interdisciplinary group includes people that have been studying these issues and people that have experience collaborating with indigenous communities and advocating for indigenous priorities. The group is working to provide social, historical, and cultural context for astrophysicists to better understand the sites they use for astronomical observations with the goal of fostering better cross cultural and intercultural relations with the local and indigenous people incorporating cultural perspectives. Concerns include the effects of light pollution and Starlink satellite constellations on Indigenous astronomical traditions.

No comments here