The American Astronomical Society and the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab expressed their concern that satellites’ mega-constellations within the low-Earth orbit will obstruct the visibility of the cosmos system. The two came up with a research report articulating how to minimize the interference from these satellites. One of the plausible strategies is minimizing the number of satellites going into the LEO, which completely clears the problem but is an impossibility for the satellite operators.
The recommendations came up in the workshop that brought together astronomers, scientists, and satellite operators. The senior executive of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Phil Puxley, explained that the satellite effect of reflecting sunlight on Earth impedes the astronomical discoveries’ visibility and can be easily confused with shining stars.
Since SpaceX’s deployment of its bright 60 satellites, the issue of satellite reflection became more visible. The satellite operator’s intention to deploy over 20000 satellites for its Starlink constellation envisioned an upcoming challenge for the astronomical view causing an uproar from this sector.
Some of the challenges that the astronomers have identified to be lethal for their astronomical observations include the light trail left by the constellation of satellites, which could confuse them as being transient events from the solar system in space.
The workshop discussed at large the possible impacts of the satellites as impediments to the astronomical studies that will be conducted at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, which is under development. The senior scientist in this observatory, Tony Tyson, stated that this machine is too good to encounter such problems when it should be making critical additions to science.
The other recommendation that the workshop outlined to resolve this satellite problem is to allow the constellation operators to launch their satellites below 600 kilometers from Earth to minimize their visibility as stars in space. This move will make the satellites appear as shadows, especially at night. The challenge now is that some satellite operators intended to deploy their constellations above this altitude like OneWeb’s constellation.
Another strategy that can salvage astronomy’s satellite problem is darkening the satellites that make them invisible to the naked eyes. This strategy can work well when the satellite is tilted to avoid the sun’s rays and a subsequent reflection of this light. SpaceX has tried to test its darkening mechanism by launching a satellite covered with visors and minimize the reflection effect.
Although these mechanisms may work effectively, some light trails may be left behind by the satellites and hence the need to cover them up with software or remove them from astronomical images. Finally, the workshop concluded that the system must integrate into simulations to determine how to resolve other issues that arise in the astronomical observations. Astronomers also expect the constellation operators to account for their satellites’ position to avoid confusing them with the solar system objects.