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Advocacy for Astronomers and Astrophysicists

Published onJun 01, 2020
Advocacy for Astronomers and Astrophysicists

Advocacy for Astronomers and Astrophysicists AAS 236 Abstract Although the federal government makes it relatively easy to file comments in opposition to regulations and license applications, applications submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate satellite megaconstellations (“SMCs”) receive very few, if any, comments articulating astronomical concerns. This void manifests despite there being concerns about SMCs effect on the dark sky, interference with optical and radio astronomy, and exacerbation of space debris. Of course, immersion in research and every day obligations absorb the time that might otherwise be spent learning how to voice individual and wider concerns. Consequently, the concerns that might otherwise be raised become waylaid. At other times, the relationship between a regulatory action and astronomical concerns will not always be apparent or intuitive. As an example, the Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) recently sought comment on proposed amendments to the regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act. These regulations guide all federal agencies in assessing the environmental impact of matters falling within a particular agency’s jurisdiction. Interestingly, though the FCC authorizes SMCs, the FCC does not consider the impact of satellites in orbital space as “environmental.” As such, a party applying for such license need not explain how an SMC will affect near-Earth space. Consequently, some advocated for an amendment to the CEQ regulations to affect this in response to the CEQ’s invitation for public comment at hearings and in writing. However, again, very few raised any astronomical concerns at the hearing. This presentation seeks to mitigate this effect by presenting tools, links, and concise explanations on how those in astronomy and astrophysics can advocate for their interests with the federal government. Using one or more concrete examples, the means by which to voice a comment or objection to federal actions will be described in detail. Whether matters related to funding, SMC applications with the FCC, or other related regulatory actions, guidance will be provided on how to search federal databases for specific types of activity. By the end of the discussion, an attendee will depart with information sufficient to enable them to advocate for their astronomical concerns and issues.

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