A new satellite is one of the brightest objects in the sky, and it’s a big deal: ScienceAlert

A new satellite is one of the brightest objects in the sky, and it’s a big deal: ScienceAlert

We put more and more satellites into orbit, and along with all the welcome technological and scientific advances they bring, there are also potential problems.

Intended to be the start of an orbital communications network that could be accessed by standard smartphones, i.ehe recently launched the BlueWalker 3 prototype satellite is already one of the brightest objects in the night sky.

For space-gazing experts and enthusiasts, this is a major concern. While astronomers have several telescopes high above us, many of our observations of the universe are recorded from the Earth’s surface.

All but the brightest stars may now be obscured by the satellite’s glow, according to the International Astronomical Union’s Center for the Protection of Dark and Quiet Skies from Satellite Constellation Disturbances (IAU CPS).

“BlueWalker 3 is a big game changer in the constellation satellite problem and should give us reason to pause,” says Piero Welcomedirector of the IAU CPS.

“This is exactly what astronomers don’t want,” said astronomer Meredith Rawls of the University of Washington in Seattle. Science. “It will show up as a super bright streak in the images and potentially saturate the detectors of the observatories’ cameras.”

The BlueWalker 3 is certainly an impressive piece of hardware. Its 693-square-foot (64-square-meter) antenna array is the largest commercial array in low Earth orbit, capable of reflecting far more light than SpaceX’s Starlink satellitesfor example.

The intention of the parent company AST SpaceMobile is to receive more than 100 satellites up in the sky by the end of 2024, a lot potentially even bigger than BlueWalker 3. This is a serious concern for scientists.

There’s another concern: BlueWalker 3 is designed to act as a cell phone tower in space, meaning it uses terrestrial radio frequencies that can interfere with radio telescopes — telescopes that are currently built quite far from cell phone coverage areas .

“The frequencies allocated to mobile phones are already a challenge to monitor even in the radio quiet zones we have created for our facilities,” says Philip DiamondDirector General of the Square Kilometer Array Observatory, based in the United Kingdom.

“New satellites like BlueWalker 3 have the potential to worsen this situation and compromise our ability to do science if we don’t mitigate properly.”

Representatives of the IAU CPS and its partners are also on fire recognize the potential of satellites to improve global communications, but they want more discussions to take place about the “equitable and sustainable use of space”.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for regulating communications networks both in the US and internationally. The company has announced plans to open an office dedicated to space, but in the meantime, talks between the IAU CPS and AST SpaceMobile have already begun.

“We are eager to use the latest technologies and strategies to mitigate possible impacts to astronomy,” said an AST SpaceMobile spokesperson A new scientist.

“We are actively working with industry experts on the latest innovations, including next-generation anti-reflective materials.”

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