June 18, 2024

Soon, 1 out of 15 light points in the sky will be a satellite

4 min read
Soon, 1 out of 15 light points in the sky will be a satellite

The survey was released in pre-print format on the platform arXiv, and already accepted for publication by the scientific journal The Astronomical Journal, reveals predictions about how it will work night sky If the satellite companies continue at the current pace of activity without a Regulation Salim.

According to study author Samantha Lawler, PhD in astronomy from the University of British Columbia, Canada, if things continue as they are, 1 out of every 15 light points in the sky will be a satellite rather than a star. “This would be devastating to astronomy research and would completely change the night sky around the world,” Lawler lamented.

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To find out how severely the sky is affected by reflected sunlight from massive, planned satellites, the scientists-led team built an open-source computer model to simulate the brightness of these satellites as seen from different places on Earth, at different times of the night, in different seasons. “We also built a simple web application based on this simulation,” Lawler said in an article he wrote for The Conversation.

Satellite brightness hinders astronomical observations

According to the researcher, the model uses 65,000 satellites in orbits filled by four companies: SpaceX Starlink and Amazon Kuiper (USA), OneWeb (UK) and StarNet/GW (China). She explained that the simulation was calibrated with reference to measurements taken from the Starlink satellite telescope, as it is the most numerous.

Starlink Satellite
Starlink satellites were used as a reference to create a computational model for the survey. Photo: Aleksandar Morisovich/Shutterstock

“Our simulations show that from around the world and at all stations, there will be dozens to hundreds of satellites visible for at least an hour before sunrise and after sunset,” Lawler said.

It reveals that the most affected places on Earth are those located at 50 degrees north and south of the planet, near cities such as London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Kiev and Vancouver. The study assumes that “on the summer solstice, at these latitudes, there will be about 200 satellites visible to the naked eye throughout the night.”

A few years ago, Lawler analyzed the orbital dynamics of the Kuiper Belt, a region of small bodies beyond Neptune. “My research is based on long-range and wide-field imaging to discover and track these minute objects and learn about the history of our solar system.”

According to her, telescope observations, which are central to most studies of the universe, “are about to become more and more difficult due to the unregulated evolution of space.”

As astronomers around the world devise some mitigation strategies, these tactics will require time and effort that, in Lawler’s opinion, must be paid for by the satellite companies.

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Giant satellites increase the flow of space junk

Starlink Internet may seem cheaper than other rural options, but that’s because it dumps a lot of costs. One immediate cost is air pollution from the hundreds of missile launches needed to build and maintain this system,” explains Lawler.

This is a serious problem caused not only by SpaceX’s network of satellites, but also by all other massive star constellations: the increase in space waste. “Every satellite deployment throws rocket bodies and other debris into already crowded LEO, increasing the risk of collision. A portion of that space debris will eventually go down to Earth, and literally denser regions of the globe are also likely to be affected. The top of the aerial satellite.

According to Lawler, SpaceX plans to replace 42,000 Starlink satellites after five years of operation. This would require ejecting an average of 25 satellites per day, which equates to about six tons of material.

Illustration of satellite internet in Brazil
The researcher believes that more efficient regulation can alleviate the problem of the high flow of satellites in Earth’s orbit. Nimedia/Shutterstock

“The mass of these satellites will not disappear – it will be deposited in the upper atmosphere,” the astronomer explains. “Because the satellites are primarily made of aluminum alloys, they can form alumina particles as they evaporate into the upper atmosphere, which can destroy ozone and cause changes in global temperature.”

This has not been comprehensively studied because, according to Lawler, LEO is not currently subject to any environmental regulations. Currently, low Earth orbit, where all these satellites must operate, is almost completely unregulated. There are no rules about light pollution, air pollution release, air pollution return, or satellite collisions. “

The researcher says that we should not choose between astronomy and the Internet

Despite all this, companies are constantly launching satellites at an increasingly frenetic pace, according to Lawler’s research, which ensures that “the damage they cause to the sky, atmosphere and the integrity of low Earth orbit will not diminish even if the operators go bankrupt.”

For the world, there is no doubt that Internet users in rural and remote areas, in many places, have been left behind by the development of network infrastructure. However, she believes that there are many online delivery options that will not lead to such high costs.

“With cooperation, rather than competition between satellite companies, we could have a lot more in orbit. By changing the design of the satellites, they could have a much weaker luminosity, causing less impact on the night sky,” Lawler suggests, saying they shouldn’t We have to choose between astronomy and the Internet.”

“But without regulations requiring these changes, or strong consumer pressure indicating the importance of the night sky, our view of the stars will be forever changed,” says the researcher.

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