Updated: Aug 3
We’re all familiar with the night sky – the stars, the galaxies, and the beautiful constellations that we can see with our own eyes. But in recent years, astronomers have noticed something strange in the night sky – a growing number of tracks of bright, moving objects that weren’t there before.
These objects, as it turns out, are satellites – and they’re having a surprisingly big impact on the work of astronomers, who are finding it increasingly difficult to observe the night sky. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what’s causing this growing number of satellite tracks, and how astronomers are dealing with the issue.
What Are Satellite Constellations?
Satellite constellations are a collection of satellites that are designed to work together to provide services to customers on Earth. These services can include internet access, GPS tracking, and more. Satellite constellations usually consist of dozens or even hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit, working together to provide coverage over large areas.
The most well-known satellite constellation is Elon Musk’s Starlink project. Starlink consists of thousands of satellites that are designed to provide high-speed internet access to customers around the world. Other satellite constellations, such as OneWeb and Amazon’s Kuiper, are also in the works.
A Rendering of Small Satellite Constellation in Low Earth Orbit. (Credit: GlobVision Inc)
How Satellites Poses a Threat to Astronomers’ Work
The problem with these satellite constellations is that the satellites are very bright, and can interfere with astronomers’ work. As the satellites move through the night sky, they create a series of bright, moving trails that can be seen with the naked eye. These trails can obscure the view of faint stars and galaxies, making it difficult for astronomers to observe the night sky.
Moreover, the trails created by the satellites can interfere with the data collected by telescopes. Even small telescopes can be affected, as the satellite trails can saturate the detectors and interfere with the data. Large telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, are also affected, as the trails can obscure distant galaxies and interfere with the data.
How Astronomers Are Finding a Growing Number of Satellite Tracks
In order to mitigate the effects of satellite trails on their work, astronomers are finding a growing number of satellite tracks in the night sky. By tracking the movement of the satellites, they can avoid areas of the sky that are affected by the trails.
Astronomers are also using software to identify and avoid satellite trails. Some software packages can identify the tracks of satellites in the night sky, allowing astronomers to steer clear of the trails and continue their work.
One example of this is the Satellite Tracker app, which uses data from the US Space Force’s Space-Track website to identify the location of satellites in the night sky. The app can be used to identify and avoid satellite trails, allowing astronomers to observe the night sky without interference.
What Are the Effects of the Growing Number of Satellite Tracks?
The growing number of satellite tracks in the night sky has had a number of effects on astronomy. For one, it has made it more difficult for astronomers to observe faint objects, as the trails can obscure the view of the sky. Additionally, it has made it harder to collect accurate data, as the trails can saturate the detectors of telescopes and interfere with the data.
Moreover, the growing number of satellite tracks has also made it more difficult for astronomers to find new objects in the night sky.
What Can Astronomers Do to Mitigate the Effects of the Growing Number of Satellite Tracks?
There are a number of steps that astronomers can take to mitigate the effects of the growing number of satellite tracks in the night sky.
First, they can use software to identify and avoid satellite trails. This allows them to steer clear of areas of the sky that are affected by the trails, and continue their observations without interference.
Second, they can use filters to reduce the amount of light from the satellites. Filters can be used to block out the light from the trails, allowing astronomers to observe faint objects.
Finally, astronomers can use adaptive optics to reduce the effects of the trails. Adaptive optics systems use deformable mirrors to correct for the distortion caused by the trails.
What Are the Benefits of Satellite Constellations?
Despite the challenges posed by satellite constellations, they do have some benefits. For one, they can provide access to internet and other services to people in remote areas who may not have access otherwise. Additionally, they can provide a more reliable and faster connection to people who have access to traditional internet services.
Moreover, satellite constellations can provide a more reliable and secure connection for businesses, governments, and other organizations. This is because the satellites are spread out across a wide area, making it difficult for a single event to disrupt the network.