Observed a couple of days ago in the night sky some countries the “train” of the first 60 satellites Starlink SpaceX is not only aroused interest among the inhabitants, who began to wonder what they see, but also laid the seed of concern among some astronomers, who began to assert that the satellite network Elon musk will result in a real problem for ground-based optical and radio astronomy observations. A few days passed, but passions don’t cease. On the contrary, between the supporters of the global satellite network Starlink and its opponents started a real war.
Astronomers satellites against Starlink
“I understand that people are impressed with all these images of “trains” of satellites Starlink from SpaceX, but for me personally, this raises serious questions about possible issues. They are very bright and soon they will be very much” — wrote in “Twitter” planetary scientist Alex Parker.
“Just right over my head flew the satellites. Very bright, some almost as the North star. A terrible thing. And Yes, stars in the background I do not see,” he added later.
Parker also noted that 12 000 striking satellites in low-earth orbit can exceed the number of visible naked eye stars in the night sky. However, final conclusions on this score he did not do, noting that this will only become clear when the satellites will reach their planned orbit.
And this is only one of many similar messages in the social networks in which scientists have expressed concern about future problems. Learn more about them you can read in our previous article.
The head of SpaceX, the whole thing was listening to and finally decided to speak, at the same time answering some of the questions of anxious enthusiasts of space exploration. So one of the users of Twitter have asked for the Mask to comment on the situation around the talk about the fact that the satellites SpaceX too bright and are a potential threat to the appearance of even more space debris in orbit of our planet.
“In orbit already has 4900 satellites that people never notice. Satellites Starlink is possible to see, if not look at the sky very much. No problem for astronomy, they did not create. In any case, we have to bring more telescopes into space. The atmosphere interferes with observations,” — said Musk.
Radio astronomers and planetary scientists Dr. Mary Knapp, working with telescopes LOFAR (LOw Frequency ARray, “low-frequency antenna array”) and the VLA, the answer Mask is not convinced. She noted that such open arrogance and self-righteousness of the head of SpaceX “deprives her of the gift of speech”.
“To cancel all ground-based astronomy simply because it interferes with his business. Brilliant! (replaced Mat — approx. ed), “commented an academic.
Why do we need ground-based astronomy?
Knapp reported that she participates in creating and using space-based telescopes in their research, and she never even would of thought about how to somehow diminish the importance of ground-based astronomical observations. In addition, she explained that the cost of building and launching space telescopes with an appropriate aperture can be ten times more expensive than the construction and use of land. In her opinion, the possibility of effective scientific research only with the participation of space telescopes will lead to the fact that democratizare and do astronomy as a science inaccessible to most people, leaving the possibility of astronomical observations only for the richest scientific institutions and space agencies.
Rocket SpaceX will not make astronomy cheaper
One of the users asked Knapp whether the rockets of SpaceX to significantly lower the cost of projects of launches of new space telescopes. She replied that in her opinion, this is unlikely, as the majority of expenses allocated to the design and development of durable vehicles which does not require maintenance.
These were photographed by satellites Starlink employee of the Lowell Observatory (USA) Victoria Girgis in the observation of group of galaxies
And here is another example of a “photobombing” one of the Starlink satellites, flying on the background of the star VEGA. The photo was taken by the British astrophotographer Steve brown
Some questions addressed directly to the Mask, also found the answer. So, one reader asked about whether it is possible to reduce the reflectivity of the satellite (albedo) Starlink, to which Musk responded that he has already instructed a team of developers machines, so they decided this issue.
“I agree, last week sent a request to the Starlink team with specific task to come up with a way to reduce their albedo. More detailed data on the current situation we will get when the devices will be released on a given orbit and will direct its solar panels towards the Sun,” wrote Musk in response.
Science and capitalism
As it turned out, not all support the concern of scientists about the probable difficulties that might create a global satellite network SpaceX Starlink. One user noted that if the satellites will be able to help billions of people living in remote from large cities places with access to cheap and fast Internet, then these sacrifices will be a fair price.
“Namely, potential assistance to billions of people in unfavorable economic conditions is a big benefit,” said Musk, adding — “However, we will ensure that Starlink has not had a significant impact on astronomical research. We care very much about science.”
As one of the measures which will allow to solve the problem of excessive reflectivity apparatus Starlink Musk called the possibility of their relocation. Each of the devices, weighing in at 227 pounds is equipped with ion engines running on gas krypton. Due to their companions if necessary, you can shift the orbit (the height of the planned orbit will be 550 kilometers).
“If you need to change the orientation of the satellite to minimize the effect of reflection of sunlight, which will interfere with astronomical observations, then we’ll do it,” wrote Musk.
He also added that for radio astronomy research satellites also will not be a problem, because the company refused to use certain frequencies in Ku-band (it will work devices) that are used in radio astronomy.
One of the authors of the portal Universe Today, Frasier crane was offered a Mask as a compromise, to consider the possibility of using satellites Starlink as a carrier base for compact space telescopes, that the head of SpaceX replied that gladly would have considered such an idea.
The beginning of a new space race
It should be recalled that not only SpaceX is developing megasize earth Internet satellites. Yes, potentially it will be the largest (12 000 machines!), but not the only one. For example, a British company, OneWeb has already launched this year the first six satellites of the planned 648-ti. Canadian satellite operator Telesat is going to build a network of 292 new vehicles. Satellite coverage decided to connect and Amazon, announced plans for the withdrawal of the grouping from 3236 satellites into orbit. About the possibilities that will offer these operators, and in General about the question of the usefulness of satellite Internet you can read in our previous article.
In any case, in the coming years, space traffic in orbit of the Earth will increase significantly. Because of this, some people may arise the question about whether such a large number of satellites to prevent future space launches?
Can satellites to prevent space launch?
Adding the above figures together, we get 16 176 vehicles. By adding 4900 satellites already operating in orbit, the figure will get 21 076 apparatus. A lot or a little?
Imagine that the Earth does not live to 7.7 billion people now, and only 21 thousand people. With such a population density would life to find someone on the planet and end up not seeing a single person. Now let’s go into orbit, where the area of the sphere even more. Much more. So the density there is still much less.
Twenty-one of the devices is negligible compared to the square orbit of the Earth (510 million square kilometers). The probability to bump into one of these satellites will be about the same as the probability to get to a man thrown from space stone, if the planet was not 7.7 billion and 21 thousand. On the other hand, several cases of collisions of space vehicles convince us that such incidents do happen. But they are more the exception to the rule.
Like this now looks near-earth orbit with all the satellites of major natural celestial objects, as well as large debris objects. To see the interactive version is available at this link. And after all, somehow manage to launch rockets and send missions into deep space.
In any case, I would like to know on whose side will rise our readers in the issue of benefit and harm Starlink satellite network. Share your opinion in our Telegram chat.