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Is There a Approach to Darken Satellites for Astronomers?

Space Startup Promises 30-Mile-High Balloon Rides to the 'Edge of Space'

Astronomers are trying to find options to the man-made “constellations” of satellites from SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Challenge Kuiper that they are saying are interfering with their work. Scientific American stories:

Lastly, in August — after greater than a yr of complaints from the scientific neighborhood and damage-control efforts from SpaceX — the Nationwide Science Basis and the American Astronomical Society launched a report on the scenario. It drew from discussions amongst greater than 250 specialists on the digital Satellite tv for pc Constellations 1 (SATCON1) workshop earlier this summer time to supply suggestions for each astronomers and satellite tv for pc constellation operators with a purpose to decrease additional disruptions…

SpaceX’s preliminary efforts at mitigating the spacecraft’s impression concerned launching a prototype Starlink satellite tv for pc generally known as DarkSat earlier this yr that contains a black antireflective coating. Latest ground-based observations of DarkSat in orbit discovered it half as brilliant as a normal Starlink satellite tv for pc — an amazing enchancment, in response to specialists, however nonetheless removed from what astronomers say is required… Whereas the dimming methods examined by DarkSat are removed from a adequate answer, SpaceX has continued to develop different methods to additional scale back spacecraft brightness. The corporate’s second try at a darkened satellite tv for pc, VisorSat, makes use of a black sunshade to scale back gentle reflection. The primary spacecraft with this design was launched on June 3. Astronomers are hoping to watch VisorSat and evaluate it with DarkSat as soon as observatories reopen, following the COVID-19 shutdown. Even earlier than any detailed observations of VisorSat have been made, SpaceX appears to have doubled down on the brand new mannequin. All of the satellites within the two Starlink batches launched in mid-June and early August have been VisorSats, with every carrying its personal sunshade.

Astronomers should not but positive whether or not darkening strategies resembling DarkSat and VisorSat are the answer. Of the SATCON1 report’s 10 suggestions, just one asks satellite tv for pc operators to make use of darkening methods. The others recommend deploying satellites in orbits beneath 600 kilometers to reduce their nighttime glare, controlling their orientations in area to mirror much less daylight, growing methods to take away their trails from astronomical observations and making their orbital data obtainable so astronomers can level telescopes away from them. By some mixture of approaches from this menu of choices, it’s hoped, the issue could be managed. Even so, the arrival of satellite tv for pc megaconstellations might have made additional degradation of astronomers’ view of the night time sky inevitable.
It is an issue that is solely going to speed up, argues one astronomer on the College of Washington — including that it is also a query of precedent. “It is a query of what sort of sky you need your grandkids to have.”

Learn extra of this story at Slashdot.