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.

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Companies: spacex

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Comments on “Scientists Try To Out Maneuver Elon Musk’s Satellite Light Pollution”

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OGquaker says:

Re: Don't Panic

Type will be reversed and backward in India, illegible except in one location, assuming the satellites don’t start colliding, impossible to avoid unless in a single line of characters larger then a football stadium.
LEO (Low Earth Orbit) reflects sunlight at your dusk and your dawn, nothing to see otherwise.
LEDs? Astronomers don’t buy much, and the rest of your customer base is looking at their cell phone. No ROI.

OGquaker says:

Thank the Baby Elvis they have no internet

The use of Africa as the dumping area of 1st world toxins, the source of labor-intensive rare earths, the wholesale destruction of people and areas after the US and France “recover” their feeder stocks of Uranium WMDs, think Zaire & Rwanda, mined petroleum turning Nigeria into an oil sewer, Mars, Nestlé and Hershey to face child slavery lawsuit in US

70% of the Earth’s surface would never have web access before Musk. Who does he think he is?

I’ve been in many conversations at a few scientific conventions across the US, the Guy’s UK company is desperate to build cell service across Africa, but impossible because the local military shoot up the sites and let the jackals scrap the equipment. Lots of money in 200 years of status quo

OGquaker says:

Participation is over the horizon for 32% of this planet's people

Listening to Lady Borton when she visits the Meetinghouse, the people of “North” Vietnam thought everyone counted rice: one for you, one for me… until the VCRs showed up in the Hanoi coffee shops.

“It takes a hundred [NOT PC] to support one Gentleman” – Bucky Fuller

England’s “Poor Law Amendment of 1834”: The law abolished all relief for able-bodied people outside workhouses. A man applying for relief had to pawn all his possessions and then enter a workhouse before assistance was granted; his wife and children either entered a workhouse or were sent to work in the cotton mills. In either case the family was broken up and treated harshly in order to discourage it from becoming a public charge.

Limited computer access has an advantage. Let’s use a parallel argument:
Anyones application for TANF, Food Stamps and Medicaid

(Los angeles County has more population than 39 of the US States )

has now been reduced to a very long and tedious process with a computer program named “CalWIN”, with numerous intrusive questions & detailed documentation (like birth certificates, proof of residence, utility bills, bank account verification, proof of car insurance) three to four hours minimum computer time. Benefits are no longer determined by a worker who could override by knowing the situation, but by the program. Overpayments, underpayments, erroneously or illegally denied benefits is the result.
40% of California is of “Latino” extraction, 50% of Los Angeles city speaks another language at home. Fuck them and their minimum wage: without the ignorant, no Industrial Revolution, no electronics from the little girls in El Salvador.

OGquaker says:

Re: Re: There are more things in heaven and earth, Google, than are dreamt of in your philosophy

Bucky told a story about Harvard and his frustrations; an Uncle straitened Bucky out: It takes a hundred brown people to support one English Gentleman, and they are the problem of China’s Emperor. US involvement in the Boxer Rebellion (1900) and the Opium wars were current topics.

See Search “buckminster”
(I was on the Pacifica board of directors at the time)

OGquaker says:

Re: Re: Re: Google and Opium keeps US stupid

“In the 2000–2001 growing season, when the Taliban led government instituted a ban on cultivation, estimated opium production dropped by 95 percent (UNODC, 2005, 2016, 2020b).”
Than the US invaded, pushing up poppy production times 40, and now 16 people die in Ohio every day from Opium.. er fentanyl: Rand lies.

DannyB (profile) says:

Simple solution

Dear scientists, in parts of your images which are obscured by crossing satellites, simply use CGI to generate eye popping amazing graphics of whatever you would like to see. With some tweaking, this can probably even be done for CGI of images that would not be in visible light. Such as infrared or x-ray images obscured by satellites. These could also be generated by suitable CGI rendering software.

Now not only do you have better than life telescope images, but you also get to see whatever you want to see. Such as planets with sentient unicorns.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Bigger concerns

Uh, forget satellites and all that. There’s so much space junk we soon will be stuck here. Forever!
Nuts, bolts, wrenches… maybe it’s time we send a recycling crew up there into orbit and start cleaning up?

We’ve got screws that can puncture a ship up there. And satellites falling in back yards down here.
And this, a bad picture, is what we’re worried about? 🤦‍♂️

IanW (profile) says:

Smart guys miss the point

It’s been said before, but worth repeating..

Someone “as smart” as Musk, with a degree in Physics and economics should have realized that something like Starlink would not be technically capable of meeting the world’s communication deficit as promised and such a scheme would never be economically viable.

But for those smart guys behind the telescopes who said:

Shutting off a telescope’s camera requires electricity, … As a consequence, this method has the potential of driving up cost and lowering efficiency for studies of the universe.

Shutting down should not be required, only to prevent the light exposure during the overhead transit. Wouldn’t a giant lens cap or shutter do?

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