Thursday , June 24 2021

SpaceXk's Starlink satellites mess with star observations. Astronomers say "not cool!"

Clarae Martínez-Vázquez, astronomer at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Coquimbo, Chile, Tweeted that the bright lights reflected by the satellite interfered with the powerful camera used to observe other galaxies.

"Wow !! I'm shocked! A huge amount of Starlink satellites crossed our skies tonight at [the observatory]", she said." Our exposure to DECam was strongly influenced by 19 of them! The Starlink satellite train lasted over 5 minutes !! Pretty depressing … This is not right! "

SpaceX Director Elon Musk began the development of the project in 2015 to improve internet connectivity in the field. Hopefully more satellites will expand throughput and coverage.

But astronomers fear that the smaller the crowd on Earth, the more light will interfere with their telescope observations.

Satellites on Earth

Satellites can be seen from Earth, provided they are usually quite weak. But when their panels reflect the "burst" of sunlight to Earth, they can appear brighter in no time, reports National Geographic.
These streaks of bright light can interfere with astronomical objects just below them and could trigger false signals in telescopes, Nature reported.
In March, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that there are currently more than 2,000 satellites in orbit, though that figure does not include Starlink satellites.

The most visible, like the International Space Station, are in low Earth orbit, and easier to spot in summer when the sun is shining longer – so satellites have more time to reflect it.

And many, many more satellites could join those already in orbit. SpaceX is licensed by regulatory authorities to launch more than 10,000 satellites, and recently requested the addition of another 30,000.

In response to the initial turmoil in May, Musk claimed that Starlink satellites would not affect astronomical observations.

"There are already 4,900 satellites in orbit, which people notice ~ 0% of the time," he said Tweeted, "No one will see Starlink unless it is looked at closely and will have ~ 0% impact on advances in astronomy."

To which CNN arrived on Wednesday, a SpaceX spokesman responded by talking to leading astronomy groups to find ways that satellites would not disrupt their operation. On a more tactical level, the basic color of the Starlink satellite appears black, which it hopes will help. SpaceX says it can adjust the orbit of the satellite if necessary.

In other words: they listen.

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