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Astronomers launched new center to combat mega-constellation threats like Elon Musk’s Starlink

Megaconstellations are corrupting astronomers’ view of space and could impact planetary defenses against incoming space debris

Astronomers have launched a new center that will combat mega-constellation threats like Elon Musk’s Starlink. This move is made to protect the night sky against damage done by thousands of satellites launched by companies like SpaceX.

Megaconstellation – means “A constellation that is composed of several hundreds and thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth”

Thus, mega-constellations including that of Elon Musk’s private space company ‘SpaceX’ launched Starlink, leaves bright streaks across images taken by telescopes. Starlink is a satellite network of around 1,700 satellites, providing Internet access coverage on Earth.

What is the new Union?

The new union called “Center for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference” will be run jointly by the Center for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference, as per sources.

Speaking at the press release announcing the new union, former IAU General Secretary and the center’s director Piero Benvenuti said mega-constellations now present a worse threat to astronomy than light pollution.

“In the past, the main source of interference was the light pollution produced by the urban illumination, the so-called artificial light at night,” Benvenuti said. “But now, the large constellations of satellites have become a more serious concern because of their omnipresence.”

Chile, Australia, South Africa were the places that provided refuge from the city lights(light pollution) and buzzing communication networks, in past. But now there is no location for astronomers to hide from this mega-constellation.

“By the end of the decade, more than 5,000 satellites will be above the horizon at any given time,” Connie Walker, a scientist at NOIRLab and one of the codirectors of the new center, stated.”At a typical dark sky observatory location, a few hundred to several thousand of these satellites will be illuminated by the sun.”These satellites will be detectable even by the smallest optical and infrared telescopes, she added.

Moreover, the number of satellites that will orbit the Earth will reflect so much light that the night sky will light up enough for the telescopes, to even notice. This will result in observations of the most distant and dimmest stars and galaxies difficult over time.

The mega-constellation threat will hinder the search for traces of life, exoplanets as it will affect most of the distant universe studies.

What will be the focus of the new Union?

The  ‘Center for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference’ will aim to bring together the astronomers with the mega-constellation operators and regulators.

Resulting to help find solutions to protect ground-based astronomy as the mega-constellation threat, increasing over time. The union will also focus on software and technical solutions to implement on the side of the labs and observatories.

What Elon Musk has done for the mega-constellation threat so far?

The impact can also be reduced by making adjustments on satellites, which SpaceX has already started approaching for, so far.

The DarkSat – ‘Starlink-1130’

  •  DarkSat appeared 55 percent fainter compared to another bright Starlink satellite, as per a study
  • The satellite ‘Starlink 1130’ has been painted accordingly to darken surface reflectivity
  • though this was only one experimental satellite, included in the third Starlink launch
  • This satellite coating made it 55 % fainter, but for some observations, 55 % is not enough reduction

The VisorSat –

  • Following DarkSat, SpaceX’s “ViroSat” is an attempt to reduce the reflection of sunlight from their Starlink satellites in orbit down toward the Earth
  • This satellite is equipped with a “Sunshade” or “Visor”, like a windshield visor in the car
  • The visor has a mechanism to locate and orient it
  •  The visor will intercept either the incoming sunlight before it is reflected from the satellite, or the sunlight reflected from the satellite so that it does not reach the Earth, as per sources.





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