Medical News World’s largest sky survey calls SpaceX Starlink a ‘nuisance’
5 June 2019
The LSST will watch the entire southern skyTodd Mason, Mason Productions Inc. / LSST Corporation
By Leah CraneMore and more astronomy organisations are stepping up to express their concerns about SpaceX’s new Starlink satellites. A total of 60 communications satellites, intended to provide global internet services, were launched on 23 May and can now be seen streaking through the night sky.
These satellites alone might not have a huge impact, but the final Starlink fleet may have as many as 12,000 spacecraft, and other companies like OneWeb and Amazon are planning additional fleets of their own.
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), an enormous observatory which is currently under construction in northern Chile, released a statement detailing how these satellites will affect its images of the entire southern sky. The telescope has many scientific goals, including mapping potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroids, watching for supernovae, and studying dark energy and dark matter.
“LSST’s frequent imaging of the same region of sky will be a strength, providing enough uncontaminated images to reject the images that contain satellite trails or other anomalies,” the statement says. It says that at most, 0.01 per cent of the telescope’s pixels will be affected by Starlink satellites. “For LSST, Starlink satellites will be a nuisance rather than a real problem.”
Nevertheless, the statement acknowledges that Starlink may be a bigger problem for other observatories, particularly those that take longer exposures. For those telescopes, simply discarding the observations with satellites in them might render a large portion of their data unusable.
This statement comes on the heels of the International Astronomical Union urging more caution and collaboration between satellite designers, policymakers, and astronomers in future satellite constellations to ensure that they won’t make the night sky impossible to study from the ground.
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