RAS Warns of Potential Danger of Starlink Satellites To Ground-Based Astronomy

The Royal Astronomical Society has issued a publication stating their concern about the potential negative impact of the SpaceX starlink sattelites that was launched some days back on star gazing and ground-based astronomy.

The Starlink and other similar networks have an aim of developing a low-cost, high-performance satellite bus and requisite customer ground transceivers to implement a new space-based Internet communication system and provide global commercial internet coverage.

To achieve that, SpaceX has plans to deploy nearly 12,000 satellites in three orbital shells by the mid 2020s: initially placing approximately 1600 in a 550 kilometers of altitude. This satellite will be visible because of the altitude. The number is also overwhelming and this will cause a complete nuisance to sky gazers.

RAS also reported a more critical situation the satellites will exhibit in their final orbits:

“In their final orbits, the satellites will be relatively faint most of the time. Initial images of the constellation though suggest that they will exhibit frequent reflective flaring, where transient alignment with sunlight leads to temporary surges in brightness.”

This will make them look more like a star or any other celestial body and will take moere effort to filter them out for advanced telescopes but in the case of a just an ordinary gazer, that may be impossible.

This will affect ground based astronomy so much and in some cases. RAS noted this and advised that future launch should be deliberated:

“Increasing the number of satellites so significantly presents a challenge to ground-based astronomy. The deployed networks could make it much harder to obtain images of the sky without the streaks associated with satellites, and thus compromise astronomical research.”

“There appears to have been no consultation between SpaceX and the scientific community in advance of the Starlink launch, though since initial press reports we note that Elon Musk has responded indicating he wishes to minimise the impact on astronomy. “

They however welcome deliberation and consultation before these kind of astronomy impacting projects are executed.

Author: Oyetunji

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