New research reveals some strategies that the astronomers and satellite operators can implement to counteract the effect of impeded astronomy due to satellites’ growing constellations in the low-Earth orbit. However, the study recommends selecting a single strategy to fulfill a huge portion of this task, alarming that no integration of the strategies can completely eradicate the problem.
The research by the American Astronomical Society and the National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab), came out on August 25 after a two months study into the restructuring strategies in the SATCON1 conference. The conference lured in over 200 astronomers and satellite developers to deal with the challenge of the growing satellite constellations that impede astronomical research.
Close to two years, astronomers have complained over interference of the shiny constellation of satellites hindering their astronomical observations. The satellites interfere with the astronomical view of space since some either reflect the sunrays to the telescope or cause oblique specks in the observations.
Connie Walker of NOIRLab stated that the conference outlined various strategies to solve the uprising astronomical conflicts with satellite operators. She reiterated that no integrative measures could absolve this challenge advising the two stakeholders to select the most appropriate strategy and implement it.
The analysis stipulates various recommendations to counteract the sun rays reflected by the satellites. One of the strategies is launching the satellites within the 600 kilometers mark, covering the satellites with opaque materials to reduce their brightness and maintaining the altitude.
SpaceX and the astronomers were working on a conclusive mechanism to solve this challenge before the SATCON1 workshop taking over this mission. The firm’s Starlink constellation technicians implemented this mechanism by operating the satellites within 600 kilometers and covering them with dark visors to minimize the reflection of the sun rays.
SpaceX deployed the first satellite with these features in June and at the beginning of August to evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy. The observers are still analyzing this mechanism’s effectiveness before trying other strategies or reinforcing this one fully.
Although Starlink shows some dedication to resolve this problem, the other satellite constellation operators like OneWeb and Amazon seem to decapitate these efforts. For example, Amazon’s Kuiper project is filing for authorization to launch its constellation above 600 kilometers orbits.
Vera Rubin Observatory’s lead scientist Tony Tyson says that SpaceX’s efforts to solve this problem are laudable, hoping that other constellation developers can follow this example. He adds that the SATCON1 report details other technological aspects that the technicians can employ in their operations to fulfill this mission.
In conclusion, astronomers are keen to point out some of the legal policies that the federal government can stipulate to shield the astronomical field from unwarranted observation denial. The advantage of constellations is that there is no marginalization.