The increase in bright satellites in Earth’s orbit poses a threat to ground-based astronomy. science news


Growth of bright satellites in Earth's orbit threatens ground-based astronomy

The swarm of SpaceX Starlink satellites was photographed shortly after launch. (Image credit: M Levinsky).

A team of scientists created a ground-based sensor to accurately measure the brightness of BlueWalker 3, a particularly bright satellite launched on September 10, 2022, which orbits Earth at an altitude of 1,930 kilometers above Earth. Astronomers use a scale to measure the brightness of objects in the night sky, with 6 being the faintest stars, and -1 being the brightest stars. Sirius is rated -1. The researchers discovered that BlueWalker3 had a brightness of 0.4, which is on the bright side of objects in the night sky, about as bright as the brightest stars. A large number of such objects could pose a threat to ground-based astronomy.

Whether we like it or not, megaconstellations are here to stay, and some of the more responsible operators of such constellations, like SpaceX, have taken steps to reduce the impact of satellites on astronomical observations by making them deeper and To make sure they are reflected. As little sunlight as possible. The satellites may appear especially bright in the hours after sunset and for a few hours before sunrise. SpaceX launches about 4,000 new Starlink satellites each month, but several other companies, including OneWeb and Amazon, are preparing to deploy megaconstellations of their own. One of these is the AST Spacemobile, which intends to deploy the BlueWalker megaconstellation, of which the BlueWalker3 satellite is a prototype.

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A paper describing the findings has been published Nature, Vishnu Reddy, one of the authors of the study, says, “The proliferation of satellite megaconstellations will have a profound impact on ground-based astronomy. Sunlight reflected by these satellites will leave scars on images taken by existing and upcoming ground-based surveys such as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile, making it challenging to conduct astronomical research. Constellations of small satellites can be particularly disruptive to surveys of large portions of the sky that look for celestial objects that appear to change position or brightness.

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