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Startell Elon Musk moons already cause headache for astronomers

Astronomers at the Chilean Observatory were rudely interrupted earlier this week when a SpaceX satellite consisting of 60 Starlink satellites was flying overhead, which scientists would obviously have to accept as the new normal.

Launched in orbit on November 11, the Starlink smallsat train took five minutes to cross the Inter-American Observatory "Cerro Tololo" in Chile, according to an astronomer's tweet of 19659004]. Martinez-Vacquez.

“Wow !! I'm in shock! ", Martinez-Vasquez tweeted. "A huge amount of Starlink satellites went through the sky tonight [Cerro Tololo]. Our exposure to DECam [Dark Energy Camera] was greatly affected by 19 of them! "To which she added:" More depressing … That's not cool! “

In response to this tweet, astronomer Cliff Johnson, a member of the CIERA Postdoc Astronomy Team in the Northwest Region, 19659007] view of the interrupted data, showing an array of satellite paths strewn in space.

Astronomers are collecting data using the DECam tool, a high-performance widescreen CTIO Blanco 4- telescope as part of the DELVE survey, which is currently mapping the outer boundaries of the Greater and Smaller Magellanic Clouds ] as well as a significant portion of the southern sky at optical wavelengths. The key objectives of the project are to explore the stellar halo around the Magellanic Clouds and to discover new dwarf galaxies in orbit around the Clouds or in the nearby Milky Way.

Starlink – a guarded DECam frame showing satellite paths across the field of view.
Image : Clara Martinez-Wackes, Cliff Johnson, CTIO / AURA / NSF

But this study was punctured as the Starlink train passed overhead in the early morning of Monda y, November 18.

"In this case, 1 out of about 40 exposures we made during our midnight observations was influenced by satellite channels," says Johnson Gizmodo in an email. "And in the case of single exposure, a maximum of 15 percent of the image is affected by the walkways. Beyond the image itself, we also had to be careful, since the image affected by the path also affected our exploration operations due to the large number of image artifacts that shifted our quality – control measurements. "

Taken as a whole, however," These numbers indicate that the effect on our science was rather at the level of annoyance rather than total destruction, "he wrote . That said, "this may be just the beginning of problems for astronomers, so I think the community's reaction and concern is justified." a reality to be achieved "that has the potential to significantly impact our observational data," Johnson said.

A similar thing happened earlier this year after the first batch of 60 Starlink satellites was delivered into orbit, with some people even believing they were UFOs. Alarmed by the inaugural batch of Starlink satellites, the American Astronomical Society issued a warning saying that megacostellations could endanger scientific observations of space.

The train effect in which the satellites are neatly arranged in light order is temporary. Eventually, the little ones disperse and enter their own unique orbits in a process that takes several weeks. That said, the number of objects in space – scattered or not – is about to experience a dramatic problem.

Currently, the impacts of these satellite trains "remain manageable" and the "worst effects are temporary", says Johnson to Gizmodo,

"I agree with the tone of the recent statement IAU calling for for an immediate and meaningful discussion between regulators, satellite providers and astronomers to highlight ways in which astronomy impacts can be minimized – not only optical but also radio astronomy – and rule out worst-case scenarios launches and uncontrolled and deployments, "said Johnson to Gizmodo.

In response to these concerns, SpaceX stated that was taking steps to color based on Starlink satellites black to minimize their brightness . Experts are not convinced that they will work, as some observatories use super sensitive tools to detect even the weakest objects.

Sc Pupils probably will probably have to get used to this type of interference as the regulators do not release a sympathetic ear. SpaceX has already received approval from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the launch of 12,000 Starlink small links, and in October the private space company led by Elon Musk requested the FCC for permission to launch an additional 30,000 satellites above that by the mid-2020s. These satellite trains, along with their associated megacellations, will soon become a regular anchorage of the night sky – and this does not include the constellations to be built by SpaceX's competitors, including networks offered by OneWeb, Telsat and Amazon . As the starry night is already obscured by light pollution from our cities, it seems that unobstructed space views can soon escape astronomers as well.

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