Franz Kerschbaum: Why we shoot tax money into orbit

(c) Karl Leitner

“What for? This is what I often get asked when I tell people that my research group develops instruments for space telescopes which are used to search for planets orbiting other stars or which analyse the composition of far-away worlds to predict their habitability.

Why is tax money launched into orbit, symbolically speaking, even though we have existential problems which have to do with human-caused climate change on our own planet? The explanation is straight-forward: we can understand complex processes in Earth’s atmosphere better by comparing them to other planets’ atmospheres. Venus with its major greenhouse effect or Mars with a thin atmosphere which has almost disappeared are important “experimental grounds” of the universe, which we can observe and learn from. Planets and other stars with yet other conditions are expanding our horizons. That is how we can refrain from unwanted experiments (and their uncertain outcomes) in our own, valuable atmosphere and guarantee the liveability of Earth for future generations.”

Univ.Prof.Dr. Franz Kerschbaum is working as an astrophysicist at the University of Vienna. His research focuses on space instrumentation, late stages of stellar evolution and the History of Astronomy. The communication and enthusiasm for astronomy and science in general, is one of his main objectives.

Photo: (c) Karl Leitner