Since May 2019, astronomers have been arguing over the impact these bright satellites could have on observations. Once the company launches 12,000 or more satellites, the problem would be beyond measure
Fremont, CA: SpaceX's Starlink satellite constellation is set to become the largest on the planet. On March 18, the company completed its fourth satellite launch of the year and sixth in total. The company now has 362 Starlink satellites in orbit, including the two experimental satellites that were launched in 2018. One of the significant challenges faced by the company was the effect these satellites could have on astronomer observations. The light reflected by these panels may disturb observations and has been a cause of worry for astronomers. To tackle the problem, the Elon Musk owned company made some changes to the satellite launch conducted by the company on January 6. Currently, the company is looking to take further steps to reduce the impact of the satellites on astronomy.
Since May 2019, astronomers have been arguing over the impact these bright satellites could have on observations. Once the company launches 12,000 or more satellites, the problem would be beyond measure. However, SpaceX believes they have been able to achieve reduced reflectivity with the experimental DarkSat among the 60 Starlink satellites launched in January. The company boasted its achievement during a webcast of the latest Starlink launch. “Preliminary results show a notable reduction,” said Jessica Anderson, one of the hosts of the webcast. "The company had a couple of other ideas that we think could reduce the reflectivity even further," she added.
One of the other ideas was that of a sunshade that would deploy itself like a patio umbrella from the satellite. This will be tested in Starlink's future missions, but no further details were given on the same. “We are working with senior members of the science community and senior astronomers to minimize the potential for reflection from the satellites,” said Elon Musk. “We’re running a bunch of experiments. That includes a sunshade and other steps to minimize the potential for any impact.”
On the contrary, the company's recent claim that the DarkSat has been able to help them achieve a notable reduction in brightness is not supported by recent observations. Astronomers in Chile used a small telescope to measure the brightness of the DarkSat and compared it with that of the regular Starlink satellites. The observations showed that the DarkSat was almost 55 percent dimmer than the others, which is still lower than what the astronomers were hoping for.
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