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Home / Science / "That's not cool!" – Astronomers despair as the SpaceX Starlink train ruins the observation of nearby galaxies

"That's not cool!" – Astronomers despair as the SpaceX Starlink train ruins the observation of nearby galaxies




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In the early hours of today's Monday, November 1

8th, two astronomers in Chile checked their remote-controlled telescope and expected images of distant stars and galaxies, instead seeing a train of SpaceX satellites Driving across the night sky is a worrying sign of what astronomy might be like.

"Here we had a second half of night observation, and then we see all these stripes, so to speak," says Cliff Johnson of Northwestern University in Chicago of the two astronomers: "We put two and two together and it was like oh, it's the train of all Starlink satellites."

Starlink is the upcoming mega-constellation of SpaceX with up to 42,000 satellites that will radiate high-speed Internet around the world. SpaceX, along with its competitors such as OneWeb and Amazon, has been promoting the benefits of delivering the Internet to everyone, including the estimated $ 3 billion without Internet access.

However, with only 3,000 active satellites orbiting Earth, many astronomers today have feared that this dramatic rise will create much more artificial points of light in the night sky. For a science that relies on dark skies, it can be a big problem if multiple satellites are constantly visible.

Last week, SpaceX launched its second batch of 60 Starlink satellites after launching in May this year. The satellites were deployed on a long train at a height of 280 kilometers, visible even to the naked eye. However, they are now being raised to their operating altitude of 550 kilometers, where they are still visible to binoculars and telescopes. [19659009] "These things are big enough that they can be picked up in the sunlight with binoculars and larger objects," says Cees Bassa of the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy. Bassa has calculated that up to 140 mega constellation satellites could be simultaneously visible if all planned satellites were launched.

Johnson belongs to a team of astronomers who study galaxies that are dominated by dark matter , Using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) of the Blanco Telescope (4 m) at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, the team conducts a three-year survey called DECam Local Volume Exploration (DELVE) to observe neighboring galaxies.

Last night, they took about 40 shots of the night sky and looked at the small and large Magellanic Clouds, two dwarf galaxies adjacent to the Milky Way. But during one of those observations, 90 minutes before sunrise, SpaceX's Starlink satellites moved in sight, sparkling in the early morning sunlight and took five minutes to cross the line of sight of the telescope. Starlink satellites crossed our skies this evening at & lsqb ; CTIO & rsqb; wrote Clarae Martínez-Vázquez, Johnson's co-astronomer, on Twitter. "Our DECam exposure was heavily influenced by 19 of them! The Starlink satellite's train lasted more than 5 minutes, rather depressing … that's not cool!"

At night, the Starlink satellites are not visible because they are shrouded in the shadows of the earth. But at this time of the morning, which was still a major time for astronomy, the satellites were clearly visible in orbit, not only in the field of view of the telescope, but also in a webcam at the observatory.

"This happened just before the astronomical twilight," says Johnson. "After almost all observational standards, this was still the heart of the night, just when you want to capture data, and especially if you want to use every minute of observation time you spend with these telescopes and facilities."

Satellites Crossing the image plane of telescopes is not uncommon and image processing tools can be used to remove the traces – although it may be more difficult to cross the pixels of a star or a galaxy. However, it is the sheer volume of the satellites that are affected here. "That was pretty shocking for me to see 19 different satellite tracks," says Johnson. "I've never seen this before and I think this record will last for a while."

So far, SpaceX has only launched 0.14 percent of its total planned Starlink constellation, but plans to launch every two weeks to increase the number of Starlink satellites orbiting Earth to approximately 1,500 by the end of 2020. With thousands more satellites on the way, the risk of more events like this last night in Chile is growing.

SpaceX, for its part, says it is taking action to address the concerns of the astronomical community. It is said that future Starlink satellites will be painted black to reduce their reflectivity, although it is not believed to have been done for this latest batch – while the glitter of the large solar panels on each satellite is still a problem.

The company has also stated that it could manipulate its constellation to create loopholes and account for "sensitive" astronomical observations. "These ideas are great on paper, but until you really have the satellites up there, people probably will not appreciate how bad it can be," says Johnson.

Last night's observations for the DELVE survey are not irreparably ruined, and hopefully the affected exposure can be addressed. But the implications where we could go are far-reaching. Without laws or regulations protecting astronomy, many are worried about the future.

"Losing five minutes is not that bad," says Johnson. "But if we go to a future where you end up losing 30 to 60 minutes, that would be a significant part of our observation time through the night."

"Every minute is valuable. [194559008]>

In In the early hours of today, Monday, November 18, two astronomers were checking in with their remote-controlled telescope in Chile, expecting images of distant stars and galaxies, instead seeing a train of SpaceX satellites crossing the night sky, a worrying sign of what

"See all these stripes," says Cliff Johnson of Northwestern University in Chicago, one of the two astronomers. "We put two and two together and it was as if it were the train of all Starlink satellites would be. "

Starlink is the upcoming mega-constellation of SpaceX with up to 42,000 satellites transmitting high-speed Internet around the world With its competitors such as OneWeb and Amazon, the benefits of providing the Internet are advertised for everyone, including the estimated three billion without Internet access.

However, with only 3,000 active satellites orbiting Earth, many astronomers today have feared that this dramatic rise will create much more artificial points of light in the night sky. For a science that relies on dark skies, it can be a big problem if multiple satellites are constantly visible.

Last week, SpaceX launched its second batch of 60 Starlink satellites after launching in May this year. The satellites were deployed on a long train at a height of 280 kilometers, visible even to the naked eye. However, they are now being raised to their operating altitude of 550 kilometers, where they are still visible to binoculars and telescopes. [19659005] "These things are big enough to be picked up in the sunlight with binoculars and larger objects," says Cees Bassa of the Dutch Institute of Radio Astronomy. Bassa has calculated that up to 140 mega constellation satellites could be simultaneously visible if all planned satellites were launched.

Johnson is one of a team of astronomers studying galaxies that are dominated by dark matter , Using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) of the Blanco Telescope (4 m) at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, the team conducts a three-year survey called DECam Local Volume Exploration (DELVE) to observe neighboring galaxies.

Last night, they took about 40 shots of the night sky and looked at the small and large Magellanic Clouds, two dwarf galaxies adjacent to the Milky Way. But during one of these observations, 90 minutes before sunrise, SpaceX's Starlink satellites moved in sight, sparkling in the early morning sunlight and took five minutes to cross the line of sight of the telescope Starlink satellites crossed our skies tonight [CTIO]"wrote Clarae Martínez-Vázquez, Johnsons co-astronomer, on Twitter." Our DECam exposure has been heavily influenced by 19 of them! The train of the Starlink satellites lasted more than 5 minutes! More depressing … That's not cool! "

At night, the Starlink satellites are invisible, as they are shrouded in the shadows of the earth, but at that time of the morning, astronomy is still a major time was, the satellites were clearly visible in orbit, not only in the field of view of the telescope, but also in a webcam at the observatory.

"This happened just before the astronomical twilight," says Johnson. "According to almost all observational standards, this was still the heart of the night, just as you capture data would like. And especially if you want to use every minute of observation time you spend with these telescopes and these facilities. "

Satellites Crossing the image plane of telescopes is not uncommon, and image-processing tools can be used to remove the tracks – Although it may be harder to cross the pixels of a star or a galaxy, it is the sheer volume of satellites that are affected here. "It was quite shocking for me to see 19 different satellite tracks," Johnson says had never seen this before. I think this record will continue for a while. "

So far, SpaceX has only launched 0.14 percent of its total planned Starlink constellation, but plans to launch every two weeks to increase the number of Starlink satellites that use the Orbiting Earth to about 1,500 by the end of 2020. With thousands of other satellites on the way, the risk of more events like this last night in Chile is growing.

SpaceX, for its part, says taking measures to address the concerns of the astronomical community means future Starlink satellites will be painted black to reduce their reflectivity, though it is not believed to have been done for this latest batch – while the glitter of the large solar cells on each satellite is still a problem.

The Company Ehmen has also stated that it can change its constellation to create gaps and allow "sensitive" astronomical observations. "These [ideas] are great on paper, but until you really have the satellites up there, people may not be able to gauge how bad it can be," says Johnson.

Last night's observations for the DELVE survey are not irreparably ruined and hopefully the affected exposure can be addressed. But the implications where we could go are far-reaching. Without laws or regulations protecting astronomy, many are worried about the future.

"Losing five minutes is not that bad," says Johnson. "But if we go to a future where you end up losing 30 to 60 minutes, that would be a significant part of our observation time during the night.

" Every minute is valuable. "


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