SpaceX Starlink satellites may pose a problem for terrestrial astronomy

Last week, SpaceX launchedThe first 60 satellites of the future network of low-cost satellite Internet Stralink, which will consist of up to 12,000 devices. The launch of compact satellites weighing 227 kilograms passed without any problems. And residents of many parts of the world were even lucky enough to watch the “train” of vehicles flying in a row in low earth orbit. But, of course, all these, as well as future vehicles will be located in the orbit of our planet not in such orderly rows. And this, in turn, raises serious concerns among astronomers, who believe that the Ilona Mask satellites can create difficulties for many telescopes around the world.

As indicated by, the satellites themselves because of their compactness do not have strong reflectivity and are not so clearly visible in the sky with the naked eye. And as soon as the apparatuses are distributed in orbit, they will become even dimmer. But the problem is that astronomers are used to relying not only on their own eyes, but also on very sensitive equipment.

According to astronomer Alan Duffy of Swinburne University of Technology (Australia), the existing orbital constellation of satellites is already creating some problems for ground-based telescopes.

“Satellites do create difficulties for scientific observations, but astronomers have developed clever methods that allow them to be solved,” commented Duffy.

"Optical telescopes, for example, the samePan-STARRS, automatically "mask" the satellites flying in their field of view on the images. However, radio telescopes, such as the Australian ASKAP, have more difficulty. It is necessary to maneuver between frequencies, because otherwise the equipment can be “blinded” by bright navigation satellite signals, like the same GPS, ”the scientist explains.

According to the Office ofUN space right now in Earth orbit are 5162 artificial objects, 2,000 of which are actively exploited. Additional deployment of a network of 12,000 satellites will be unprecedented in all respects.

Starlink satellites will kill ground-based radio astronomy

The environment in which we live is fullall kinds of radio waves: signals of Wi-Fi stations, cell phone towers, wireless networks, emitting a huge amount of radio noise and so on. But satellites present an even more serious problem for radio telescopes than any other ground equipment.

"Full deployment of the Starlink satellite network,probably will mean an end for terrestrial microwave radio telescopes that are used to search for very weak radio signals, ”adds Duffy.

“The tremendous benefits that are offeredUnfortunately, the global satellite Internet coverage will outweigh the benefits that astronomy provides. Therefore, we can most likely lose the possibility of observing the residual luminescence after the Big Bang and the outbursts of the birth of new stars from the Earth. ”

According to Duffy, Starlink satellites are requiredwill cause radio interference with observations. The scientist believes that humanity "should build a radio telescope on the far side of the moon", where it will be shielded from all this radio noise coming from our planet and its near-Earth space.

By the way, it does not seem that a solution to radio interference problems that would interfere with astronomical observations was found in SpaceX itself.

Even last year, the astronomer NationalThe US Radio Astronomy Observatory Harvey List sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in which he expressed serious concern about the Starlink project.

According to Liszt, coordination between severalNational Observatories and SpaceX “stopped to no avail around mid-2017, after a preliminary and rather superficial assessment by radio astronomers of the probable problems and the ways in which SpaceX plans to solve them."

One of the reasons for such passivity in addressing thisThe issue may be explained by the fact that SpaceX itself may consider these 60 first launched Starlink satellites as test ones. Allegedly, with the project to the end, nothing is clear yet, so you should not hurry. In addition, in 2015, various experts and industry analysts questioned the profitability of such projects as Starlink. However, the company has already confirmed via Twitter that it plans to launch up to six launches in 2019, within which new satellites will be launched.

Satellite Internet SpaceX - even more space junk

Problems that Starlink satellites can createassociated not only with radio astronomy, but also with space ecology. Twelve thousand satellites are a huge pile of potential new space junk.

"SpaceX offers to place 12,000 newsatellites in low earth orbit - where the bulk of space debris. Running all of these devices in just a few years will actually increase the total mass of garbage by 40 percent. It took 60 years for mankind to accumulate such volumes in orbit. A huge increase in space debris is awaiting us, ”said Alice Gorman, space archaeologist at Flinders University (Australia).

In fairness it should be noted that SpaceXBack in 2017, it filed a patent with the FCC, which described ways to solve probable problems with space debris due to its satellites, as well as methods for quickly removing vehicles from orbit, whose lifespan (5-7 years) will be nearing completion.

"Satellites will be driven away from low-Earthorbit into the burial orbit, and then descend into the earth’s atmosphere and burn in it completely about a year after the end of its mission, ”the company explained.

But it is unlikely to help, even before completionIn their lifetime, a satellite or company satellites will be damaged by a collision with other space debris that is present in low Earth orbit. And as the practice of the International Space Station has recently shown, just a small grain of sand is enough to create big problems for a spacecraft.

"If the SpaceX methods do not work, then according tothe assumptions of the company for the independent descent into the atmosphere of a failed satellite will take about 5 years. This is a huge amount of time for which anything can happen. During this time, a non-working satellite can be destroyed to the ground by collisions with other objects of space debris, which again will lead to an increase in its volume in orbit, ”explained Gorman.

Just one such incident can trigger a wholea cascade of destructive events, the so-called Kessler syndrome - a hypothetical development of events in near-earth orbit, described in detail by NASA consultant Donald Kessler back in 1978, when space debris resulting from numerous launches of artificial satellites, leads to complete unsuitability of near space for practical use.

"On the problem of space debris very oftenclose their eyes. According to one estimate, at least 40 percent of all space missions and launches are not following the UN guidelines for reducing the appearance of new garbage in orbit, ”Gorman says.

“SpaceX offers the right steps to move away fromorbits of spent satellites, as well as methods that will avoid collisions. But how it will work in practice with so many new satellites is a question. ”

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