NASA Orbital Rusk Model & nbsp
- Space is the new ‘continent’ for ‘colonization’ discovered by countries, space organizations and companies.
- As companies around the world are planning a race to send tens of thousands of satellites into orbit to provide global high-speed Internet access, there is no secure place left in the sky.
- Unfortunately, these mega constellations can ruin astronomy and even worse, there is no easy solution.
A shocking report released by Space.com, author of Paul M Sutter – an astrophysicist at SUNY Stony Brook and the Flatiron Institute in New York City – says companies around the world are planning to launch tens of thousands over the next few years of satellites in orbit to provide global high-speed Internet access. AND that this access costs a price on the sanctity of space. It will pollute the sky and pollute astronomical observations.
This report by Sutter is not pulp fiction or an attempt at sensationalism. Sutter is not a beginner. Paul Matt Sutter received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011 and spent three years at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics, followed by a research fellowship in Trieste, Italy. Many other feathers adorn his cap.
Sutter’s report in Space.com also adds that a team of scientists has modeled the effects of these satellites and studied different mitigation strategies. And has predicted a doomsday scenario for astronomy.
The rise of the mega constellations:
Starlink, OneWeb, Kuiper, SatNet — this is just the beginning of the mega constellations that will launch into Earth’s orbit over the coming years. Each will provide its own network of high-speed global Internet access.
Why worry about the rise in orbital satellites?
- There are currently more than 3,300 active artificial satellites in Earth’s orbit, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a scientific advocate group.
- SpaceX’s Starlink will have control of 11,926 satellites at Generation 1 launches.
- In generation 2, it sends 30,000 more into orbit.
- OneWeb, Amazon Kuiper and China’s SatNet together will implement over 20,000 satellites.
How many communications satellite constellations orbited the Earth do you think before these mega constellations began to be launched in 2018?
- The largest constellation of satellites was Iridium’s communications satellites, which numbered only 70.
- Every single satellite is a source of pollution.
- The satellite bodies themselves, as well as their expansive solar panels, reflect sunlight.
- For an astronomer using the largest telescopes on Earth to capture the weakest objects in space, the mega constellations will be a major nuisance.
- When a team of astronomers is at work looking into the sky through the telescope, and a satellite constellation crosses the field of view of a telescope, it’s not just a single line, but several – imagine the devastation on astronomical observations it might cause.
Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.
This argument falls flat on its face as astronomers disagree and have decided to use available data to predict the impact of these mega-constellations on astronomical observations.
Here is the list from the model that shows the effect:
- The image shows diagonal lines caused by light reflected by a group of 25 Starlink satellites passing through a telescope field of view at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona during observations by the NGC 5353/4 Galaxy Group on 25 May 2019.
- The situation will get much worse when all the satellites are up – which astronomers will discover to their annoyance as they will then try to make astronomy.
- And there is no control-Z or Undo button then, as it may be too late.
- Astronomers who created simulated models with different kinds of astronomical instruments, such as giant telescopes with wide fields and high-resolution spectrographs, found that almost every aspect of today’s astronomy will be affected in some way because the satellites will generally be bright enough to to be seen by even moderately sized professional telescopes.
Not only narrow field telescopes, even wide field telescopes, e.g. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory will face many difficulties – for example at sunrise and sunset – and the observatory may lose up to half of each image due to disturbing satellite tracks, astronomers wrote in a recently published paper to the pre-print server arXiv, as reported by Space.com.
In many cases, useful information can still be retrieved from the unpolluted areas of the images. But in others, like detecting the exoplanet, the whole picture has to be thrown away. This can cost the astronomical community millions of dollars in lost time and processing power. And this is only the beginning of the mega-constellation era; more satellites could be on the way.
So what can be done to alleviate the problems?
- The best mitigation strategy is to reduce the visible surface area of the satellites and their solar panels, as with SpaceX’s Starlink VisorSat program to darken their satellites, the researchers found.
- The second possibility would be that astronomers would have to keep up with the constellation orbits and try to plan their observations around the scheduled time, either by not taking pictures when satellites are in sight or by pointing in slightly different directions. But this approach requires tremendous coordination, as companies often change the orbits of their satellites.
Sutter says another mitigation strategy would be to remove the satellite paths from the images later – an option that should NOT work for spectrometers; because they do not take pictures, it is difficult to know when a spectrum has been contaminated by a satellite track at all.
The threat of space debris:
It is not as if every satellite that humanity launches will be functional and continue up there in space and function to its designed ability until eternity. At some point, the satellite constellations will have a member satellite that develops a chin that cannot be corrected. That piece then turns into space junk. There is also a collision threat with so many machines in orbit around the Earth.
NASA says: “More than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris or” space debris “are tracked by the Department of Defense’s Global Space Surveillance Network (SSN) sensors. Since both wreckage and spacecraft are traveling at extremely high speeds (approximately spacecraft can create major problems. “
According to NASA, the growing population of space debris increases the potential danger to all spacecraft, including the International Space Station and other spacecraft with humans on board, such as SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.
Do we have a solution?
Mankind asks the mega-constellations-Should high-speed Internet access cost a precious science? Should not all stakeholders have a sit-down and find a golden mean? Will the megacorps that manage the launches not have a continued dialogue with the astronomical community instead?