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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday February 23 2020, @05:33PM   Printer-friendly
from the how-it-works-is-up-in-the-air dept.

How Does Starlink Work Anyway?:

No matter what you think of Elon Musk, it's hard to deny that he takes the dictum "There's no such thing as bad publicity" to heart. From hurling sports cars into orbit to solar-powered roof destroyers, there's little that Mr. Musk can't turn into a net positive for at least one of his many ventures, not to mention his image.

Elon may have gotten in over his head, though. His plan to use his SpaceX rockets to fill the sky with thousands of satellites dedicated to providing cheap Internet access ran afoul of the astronomy community, which has decried the impact of the Starlink satellites on observations, both in the optical wavelengths and further down the spectrum in the radio bands. And that's with only a tiny fraction of the planned constellation deployed; once fully built-out, they fear Starlink will ruin Earth-based observation forever.

What exactly the final Starlink constellation will look like and what impact it would have on observations depend greatly on the degree to which it can withstand regulatory efforts and market forces. Assuming it does survive and gets built out into a system that more or less resembles the current plan, what exactly will Starlink do? And more importantly, how will it accomplish its stated goals?


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  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:15PM (6 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:15PM (#961508) Journal

    Obvious solution: build 1000s of space telescopes. Put them in lunar orbit. And at the Earth-Moon Lagrange points. And very high orbits of Earth. Now, if only someone will pay for all that, I suspect the astronomers would view it as a fair trade in exchange for losing the ability to make ground based observations at the frequencies these commsats use.

    Who should pay? The polluters, no? Not the public. We already see the treasury routinely looted to pay for cleaning up other's messes. Not just Superfund. TARP. Privatize the gains, socialize the losses. So, Mr. Musk, how about it? Willing to foot the bill to fund the creation of this huge asset for astronomic studies?

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:46PM (2 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:46PM (#961523)

    A few years back, I was thinking about getting into astronomy - like: work on Mauna Loa. I briefly toyed with the idea of getting a hobby telescope and doing some of my own backyard work - you can do some really impressive stuff these days with less than $10K in equipment, but... in the end, no matter how much you spend, you're working from a relatively tiny aperture, in a horrible light pollution soup, and it's really nothing like working with the "real stuff," which, by the way, is available for free amateur downloading and processing to your heart's content.

    Offtopic tangent: Ultimately, Hilo turned us off by reminding me too much of what happened to West Coast Florida in the 1970s-90s, same general crap seems to be going down in Hilo today - massive influx of new people, overdevelopment of natural resources. In Florida, my parents have been resident since birth in the 1940s - I just couldn't imagine being "part of the problem" in Hilo with my family.

    Somewhat more ontopic tangent: If you're really serious about astronomy, you probably use the serious data collected from the serious instruments - the only thing a backyard scope has that the big (free) ones don't is the ability to choose your targets, but if you don't mind data that's a year or two old (nothing, in cosmic timescales), then you can get orders of magnitude better images out of the pro-community scopes of just about any target you can imagine.

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    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:14PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:14PM (#961533) Journal

      You just need to find something the amateur scope is still useful for.

      https://occultations.org/ [occultations.org]

      Maybe you could automate a telescope to look at predicted occultations as well as checking random stars:

      Distant Kuiper Belt Planetesimal Found Using Occultation [soylentnews.org]

      This fills an interesting niche. Amateur quality equipment and poor viewing conditions aren't a total impediment, as much data as possible is helpful, you can discover new objects, etc.

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      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:26PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:26PM (#961594)

        It's not that backyard astronomy is useless, more data is always good and there are valuable things that a wide blanket of fuzzy eyes can do that a small number of sharp ones can't, but... they are quite different, and most of the WOW (translate: funding) does tend to come from the sharp eyes' data.

        --
        🌻🌻 [google.com]
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:06PM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:06PM (#961529) Journal

    Musk is footing the bill for Starship, which will be far more beneficial to astronomy than Starlink will be detrimental. NASA will be able to get more than 10x done with their budget, should they choose to do so. Your dream of thousands of space telescopes will be realized. Most of them can work just fine in LEO, even underneath the broadband constellations, and focus on small targets. Wide field-of-view telescopes can use orbits like the one TESS uses.

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  • (Score: 2) by edIII on Monday February 24 2020, @02:11AM (1 child)

    by edIII (791) on Monday February 24 2020, @02:11AM (#961664)

    ^THIS^

    If you're going to fuck up the sky for every single person that would fall in love with astronomy, then the least you owe us is obviating the need for ground based observatories. Use that massive amount of bandwidth to deliver high quality astronomy images to everyone in the world that wants to look at it. Starlink Astronomical CDN built-in to each satellite to more easily distribute popular astronomical data. For for scientific community, those very high earth orbit satellite installations you spoke off.

    If a kid could point his tablet up to the sky, and then received a processed image of the sky with zoom capabilities, then yes, perhaps proper compensation has been made for taking the stars from us.

    --
    Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24 2020, @09:55PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24 2020, @09:55PM (#962022)

      Buncha socialist nonsense!