The scientific community has been expressing concerns regarding the space company’s project D Elon Mask And now, a new study is raising awareness of the growing influence of the satellite constellation on astronomical observations.
A team of researchers has analyzed a set of images captured by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), a US-based astronomical observing instrument that, every two days, (analyses) the entire night sky, cataloging shifting cosmic objects.
The results of the study published in the scientific journal Astrophysical Journal Letters, showed that 5,301 “convoys” of Starlink satellites appear in images taken by the observatory between November 2019 and September 2021.
Researchers explain it Signs left by satellites are most evident in observations taken at dawn and dusk, at times of the day important for detecting asteroids.
Przemik Mroz, the researcher who led the study, notes that “in 2019, 0.5% of images taken at dawn or dusk were affected,” adding that in 2021, this value had risen to nearly 20%.
Going forward, experts predict that the vast majority of images captured by ZTF at dawn or dusk contain at least one sign, in particular, that the Starlink constellation has reached the 10,000 satellite mark: a goal SpaceX aims to achieve by 2027. .
Despite the remaining signs, the study indicates that the scientific operations carried out by the ZTF were not significantly affected. “There is a small chance that we will miss an asteroid or some event hidden behind a satellite tag, but compared to the impact of weather, such as an overcast sky, these are smaller impacts on the ZTF,” explains Tom Prince, co-author of the publication.
The researcher notes that certain types of software can help mitigate problems caused by the constellation, predict the location of satellites or alert scientists that an observation may be affected.
Measures taken by SpaceX itself to mitigate the impact of its satellites have also been analyzed by experts. While introducing masks on satellites launched from 2020 onwards will help mitigate the impact, this is not enough.
Although the study’s conclusions relate only to ZTF, the researchers speculate that the impact of Starlink satellite constellations could be greater in the case of observatories with more advanced capabilities, such as the Vera C. Rubin observatory being built in Chile.
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