Hundreds of astronomers have once again expressed concern that large constellations of satellites, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink network, will have an “extremely strong” negative impact on astronomy and scientific progress.
In the report of the Satellite Constellations 1 seminar, it was said that constellations of bright satellites are fundamentally changing terrestrial optical and infrared astronomy. More than 250 scientists and satellite operators participated in the study, which was planned to assess the level of influence on astronomy of large satellite constellations.
The workshop participants presented several options that could reduce the negative impact of large satellite constellations on astronomy. They argue that satellites can be “darkened”, “kept in low orbit,” “oriented so that they reflect less sunlight,” but the first option on the list of proposals was to “stop launching them.”
Recall that SpaceX intends to launch more than 30 thousand Starlink satellites into space in order to provide access to the Internet from any corner of the planet. The researchers’ report states that “Starlink alone can roughly double the number of objects moving in space, which are visible at night from the surface of the planet with the naked eye“.
It’s worth noting that the American Astronomical Society (AAS), which hosted the Satellite Constellation workshop, is already working with SpaceX to address this issue. For its part, SpaceX is also partnering with the National Radio Astronomy Laboratory (NROA) and the Green Bank Observatory (GBO) to develop methods to mitigate the negative impact of Starlink satellites.
Professor Tony Tyson of the University of California, Davis said one option being considered is to make Starlink satellites ten times darker. However, he noticed that even this would not allow getting rid of the negative impact of a large satellite constellation, which would still interfere with the work of astronomers.
“With tens of thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit, we find that, overall, no combination of mitigation measures can completely avoid the impact of satellite footprints on science programs using the next generation of optical astronomical facilities.“, – said Mr. Tyson.
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