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posted by hubie on Wednesday September 21 2022, @08:35AM   Printer-friendly
from the buh-bye-night-sky dept.

The imminent launch of a BlueWalker satellite, with a giant phased array antenna, portends a brightening night sky:

The prototype of a new constellation of extremely bright Earth-orbiting satellites is due to launch in early- to mid-September. The AST SpaceMobile company plans to orbit more than 100 of these spacecraft by the end of 2024. Astronomers at the Vera Rubin Observatory and the International Astronomical Union's Centre for the Protection of Dark and Quiet Skies from Satellite Constellation Interference (IAU CPS) are concerned because these new spacecraft will interfere with celestial observations, adding to the problems already caused by other constellations.

The first member of this new group, called BlueWalker 3, will feature a giant antenna array covering an area of 64 square meters (689 square feet). Observers on the ground will see bright sunlight reflected from this structure. After on-orbit tests of BlueWalker 3 are completed, the operational satellites, called BlueBirds, will be launched. BlueBirds may produce even more glaring light pollution since they are significantly larger. The commercial appeal of these satellites is that they will link directly to cell phones without the need of a cell tower. AST SpaceMobile has already secured a license from the Federal Communications Commission to test the prototype.

[...] Other bright satellites are waiting in the wings: 30,000 second-generation Starlink satellites are currently awaiting FCC approval. Like the BlueBirds, the new Starlinks may carry antennas for direct connection to cell phones; the antennas are slightly smaller at "only" 25 square meters, but the satellites would be far more numerous than the BlueBird constellation. That development would be very bad news for astronomy.

BlueWalker 3 is expected to be among the brightest objects in the night sky after the antenna unfolds. Amateur astronomers can help record this satellite's brightness, bringing awareness to bright satellites' effects on our night sky and on astronomy.

[...] Astrophotographers can also play an important role in the study of artificial satellites, by uploading celestial images impacted by satellite streaks to the TrailBlazer website. Meredith Rawls and Dino Bektešević (both at University of Washington) are developing this data archive as part of the IAU's response to the problems posed by spacecraft. Trailblazer stores the impacted images and records selected metadata, so users can search for satellite-streaked images by date, location, and other parameters such as sky position and telescope.

See also:
    AST SpaceMobile video describing the phased array satellite.
    NASA APOD showing satellite streaks over a two hour period.

    SpaceX Has Had 'Promising Conversations' With Apple About iPhone Satellite Service
    AST SpaceMobile Gets US Approval to Test Satellite-based Cellular Broadband

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  • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Thursday September 22 2022, @08:37AM (3 children)

    by maxwell demon (1608) on Thursday September 22 2022, @08:37AM (#1272956) Journal

    I can't find any indication that this guy is a professional astronomer rather than an amateur.

    Note that professional astronomers are not simply after pretty pictures, they are after scientific data. Note also that astronomical processes are also time dependent. If you are trying to measure a time-dependent signal, averaging over a longer time won't do you any good.

    And “Astronomers at the Vera Rubin Observatory” surely aren't journalists. Of course it's a journalist bringing you their message; that's the journalist's job.

    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
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  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday September 22 2022, @10:35AM (2 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday September 22 2022, @10:35AM (#1272962)

    Link was intended to be to the readily available amateur software that solved the problem for amateurs years ago.

    Vera Rubin observatory has not taken a single image yet and won't until next year. Why wouldn't the reporter take statements from astronomers at the two working telescopes at the same location?

    Overall, considering the data from Webb and Hubble, would you consider astronomy to be getting more good data today, or in 1990 when there was less, but not zero, interference from manmade orbiting stuff?

    🌻🌻 []
    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Thursday September 22 2022, @12:55PM (1 child)

      by maxwell demon (1608) on Thursday September 22 2022, @12:55PM (#1272979) Journal

      And the thought never occurred to you that professional astronomers might have different goals and therefore different needs than amateur astronomers?

      Anyway, I'll just file you under Dunning-Kruger and no longer waste my time arguing with you.

      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday September 22 2022, @02:10PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday September 22 2022, @02:10PM (#1272984)

        No argument, but consider this hypothetical:

        “Astronomers at the Vera Rubin Observatory” [] got a big fat grant for construction and operation, and as opening day (first light) looms their dreams of becoming the next NdGT slowly fade as Chilean schoolchildren touring the inactive observatory yawn and requests for interviews are few, far between, and from very minor outlets. However, the new science they are supposed to be doing, which got them the grant in the first place, means that existing algorithms for dealing with satellite interference don't completely solve all their problems. So, the television interviewing skills they have been practicing are getting little use, but before they can publish that first big discovery from the new instrument (their other life's dream), they're going to have to slog through database maintenance and satellite tracking algorithms doing original work in areas mostly only useful to themselves, work that really doesn't fulfill any of their hopes or dreams in and of itself.

        So, while the frustrated astrophysicists are slogging through the unpleasant but necessary drudge, ersatz reporter contacts - nudged by interests wanting to diminish the popularity of new satellite swarm services - relay the researchers' sour grapes grumblings about these satellites, feeding the world of people eager to have something more "human scale" to hate on besides the too scary prospects of nuclear winter, climate apocalypse, AI Armageddon, etc.

        🌻🌻 []