November 30, 2023

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A massive new satellite outshines almost every star in the sky

A massive new satellite outshines almost every star in the sky

On some nights, one of the brightest objects in the sky is neither a planet nor a star. It is telecommunications Satellites Named Blue Walker 3Which sometimes outshines 99% of the stars visible from a dark location on Earth, according to observations reported today in Nature1.

the Blue Walker 3 It’s the most amazing modern addition to a sky already teeming with satellites. Just a spaceflight company SpaceX It has launched more than 5,000 satellites into orbit, and companies around the world have collectively proposed launching more than half a million satellites in the coming years — a scenario that astronomers fear could hamper scientific observations of the universe.

Telecom Company Astspace Mobile In the Midland to Texas, launched BlueWalker 3 on September 10, 2022 as a prototype of a satellite fleet designed to make mobile broadband available almost anywhere. The satellite’s massive antenna array and white color means it reflects a large amount of sunlight back to Earth, making it glow even in twilight.

In addition, the team observed a bright object separating from the main satellite during deployment, and later learned that this was the enclosure that protected the folded antennas during ascent, before they were launched into space.

In a statement in nature, the Astspace Mobile He said he is currently working with NASA and astronomy groups to address these concerns regarding space observation.

Many astronomers were surprised in mid-2019 when SpaceX successfully launched 60 satellites, creating a “star train” gliding across the night sky. Now, low Earth orbit is filled with thousands of commercial satellites. If captured by a telescope during a long exposure, these objects can leave a bright line that makes it difficult to read the actual star data.

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To avoid such a scenario, astronomers are working to find common solutions. Some of the study’s authors, for example, are part of a nascent coalition called CPS that aims to address the problem and has reached out to companies like SpaceX and AST SpaceMobile.

SpaceX is already testing ways to make its satellites less visible, and alliance members say AST SpaceMobile also seems adept at obfuscating its satellites. The company says it plans to use anti-reflective materials on its next-generation satellites, as well as some flight maneuvers to reduce the apparent size of the vehicle.