Scientists Try To Out Maneuver Elon Musk’s Satellite Light Pollution
from the innovation-ain't-everything dept
For a few years, scientific researchers have warned that Elon Musk’s Starlink low orbit satellite broadband constellations are harming scientific research. Simply, the light pollution Musk claimed would never happen in the first place is making it far more difficult to study the night sky, a problem researchers say can be mitigated somewhat but not eliminated.
Musk and company claim they’re working on upgraded satellites that are less obtrusive to scientists, but it’s Musk, so who knows if those solutions actually materialize. Musk isn’t alone in his low-orbit satellite ambitions. Numerous other companies, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, are planning to fling tens of thousands of these low-orbit satellites into the heavens.
All to deploy broadband services that will only put a small dent in U.S. broadband gaps due to capacity constraints and the laws of physics.
While nobody has implemented a meaningful fix yet, researchers from the University of Arizona say they’ve developed a new satellite tracking system that will give researchers ample warning before low orbit satellites have the opportunity to screw photographs and research.
But it’s not really a fix. It’s probably not going to be able to scale with the flood of new low-orbit satellites being launched, it doesn’t actually resolve any of the underlying issues, and turning on and off massive, sophisticated systems like these incurs additional costs:
Frustratingly, the idea of using a sensor to warn astronomers of potential interference is also not ideal. Shutting off a telescope’s camera requires electricity, so it’s akin to powering down a desktop computer and turning it back on again—but in this case the computer is a rather expensive and gigantic instrument that’s used to make sensitive observations of distant objects in the sky. As a consequence, this method has the potential of driving up cost and lowering efficiency for studies of the universe.
Another problem is there are simply so many low orbit satellites being launched, the resulting space junk is creating numerous navigational hazards. US regulators, very much in character, have been largely a no show on either front, with a few occasional exceptions.