Home / Science / "This is not cool!" – Astronomers despair when SpaceX Starlink train ruins Observation of nearby galaxies

"This is not cool!" – Astronomers despair when SpaceX Starlink train ruins Observation of nearby galaxies

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The company has also said that it can handle its constellation to create gaps and accommodate "sensitive" astronomical observations. "These & lsqb; ideas & rsqb; are good on paper, but until you really get the satellites up, I don't think people will appreciate how bad it can be," Johnson says.

In the observations of the night for the DELVE examination are not destroyed after repair, and hopefully the exposure concerned can be fixed. But the consequences of where we can go are great; with no laws or regulations to protect astronomy, many are worried about what the future holds.

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

" Every minute is valuable. "


In the early morning today, Monday, November 18, two astronomers checked in on their remote-controlled telescopes in Chile, expecting to see images of distant stars and galaxies. Instead, they saw a train of SpaceX satellites crossing the night sky, a worrying sign of what might be coming for astronomy.

"Here we were, we had a second half of the night to observe, and then see all these streaks," says Cliff Johnson of Northwestern University in Chicago, one of the two astronomers. "We put two and two together and it was like oh yeah, it's the train for all Starlink satellites."

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

However, with only 3,000 active satellites orbiting the Earth today, many astronomers have expressed concern that this dramatic increase will create many more artificial bright spots in the night sky. For a science that relies on dark skies, having multiple satellites constantly visible can cause significant problems.

Last week, SpaceX launched its second batch of 60 Starlink satellites, following its first launch in May this year. The satellites were placed in a long train at an altitude of 280 kilometers, visible even with the naked eye, but are being raised to their operational altitude of 550 kilometers, where they are still visible to binoculars and telescopes. [19659005] "These things are big enough that when they are sunlit, they are bright enough to pick up with anything from binoculars and larger ones," says Cees Bassa of the Netherlands Institute of Radio Astronomy. Bassa has calculated that up to 140 mega constellation satellites can be visible at any time if all planned satellites launch.

Johnson is part of a team of astronomers studying galaxies dominated by dark matter. Using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the four-meter Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, the team conducts a three-year study called DECam Local Volume Exploration (DELVE) to observe nearby galaxies [19659004] Last night they took about 40 exposures of the night sky and looked at the small and large magellanic clouds, two dwarf galaxies bordering the Milky Way. But during a set of these observations, 90 minutes before sunrise, the train moved from SpaceX's Starlink satellites to sight, glinted in the morning sunlight and took five minutes to cross the telescope's line of sight.

"The huge amount of Starlink satellites crossed our sky tonight on [CTIO]," Clarae Martínez-Vázquez, Johnson's co-astronomer, wrote on Twitter. "Our DECam exposure was greatly affected by 19 of them! The Starlink satellite train lasted for over 5 minutes !! Pretty depressing … This is not cool! "

In the dead of night, the Starlink satellites are not visible because they are shrouded in Earth's shadow. But at this time of the morning, still a first time for astronomy, the satellites were clearly visible in orbit, not only caught in the telescope's field of view but a webcam at the observatory as well.

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