For modern astronomers, satellites are just part of life. There are more than 2,000 active people currently roaming the Earth, and the brightest minds in space have managed to work clever ways of removing the occasional flight from their pictures of space.
But then there's Starlink. The early stages of SpaceX's plan to launch up to 42,000 satellites to provide the Earth with full internet coverage have been clocked at 122 objects so far; after the first major launch in May, astronomers were worried.
Now a second launch has taken place, and their concerns are really starting to develop.
Wow !! I'm in shock !! Large amounts of Starlink satellites cross our sky tonight at @cerrotololo . Our DECam exposure was greatly affected by 19 of them! The train of the satellite satellites took over 5 minutes !! Rather depressed … It's not cool! pic.twitter.com/gK0ekbpLJe
– Clarae Martínez-Vázquez (@ 89Marvaz) November 18, 2019
In the early hours of November 18 at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO ) in Northern Chile, the path of the newly launched Starlink satellites flies above, actually filling an image taken by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam).
Each of the dotted line paths in the image below is a Starlink satellite.
While taking nearly 40 exposures of Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, SpaceX's Spacelink satellite penetrates the camera's vision around 90 minutes before sunrise, shining brightly in the early sunlight and taking a full five minutes to disappear into the telescope's view.
"Wow !! I'm in shock," wrote The CTIO astronomer Clara Martinez-Vazquez in Twit ter . He noted that there are 19 satellite trails, which is more than a normal satellite pass.
Although most of the time the satellites are dark in the night sky (which still presents some problems), only after the Sun has gone down, or early morning when the sky is still dark, is the famous the sun can still hit the satellites. seeing them both through fancy astronomical telescopes, and regular binoculars.
"These things are big enough when they are sunny, they are bright enough to pick anything from binoculars to larger ones," Cees Bassa from the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy told Forbes .
And astronomers are not impressed. As we previously reported, they brought some big issues with Starlink. First, there will be many of these objects in orbit, which can dramatically affect the way astronomers see and hear the sky.
"An entire constellation of Starlink satellites probably means the termination of an Earth-based microwave- radio telescopes can scan the sky for weak radio objects," the astronomer said Swinburne University Alan Duffy told ScienceAlert in May after Starlink's first satellite launch. , so they have yet to reach their final operating height – but that height is expected to be lower than the first batch.
Sky observers also find Starlink to be more reflective and then other satellites. If thousands of extra satellites have never been a problem on their own, the fact that they are extremely shiny is another thing that astronomers are pulling at their hair.
Agreed, sent a note to Starlink team last week specifically about albedo reduction. . We get a better sense of its value when satellites lift orbits and arrays are monitored during the day.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 27, 2019
Astronomers have removed tracks from their images upon seeing Starlink, but most of the information used by scientists is contained in raw materials. image, not the beautiful pictures we see. In addition, one thing is to remove one single satellite from one image, and another to delete 19.
So far, some people have been able to cope by poking fun at SpaceX & # 39; s Elon Musk on social media.
– 💫 Astro Noel 💫 (@astro_noel) November 18, 2019
How astronomers and SpaceX are solved still know, but with two more launches scheduled this year, there's a chance this won't be the last we hear about this problem.