A report issued today, resulting from a video conference of astronomers in July, has concluded that much of ground-based astronomy is threatened by the new large satellite constellations being launched by SpaceX, OneWeb, and others.
The astronomers’ report offers six solutions for solving the problem.
- Launch fewer or no LEOsats. However impractical or unlikely, this is the only option identified that can achieve zero astronomical impact.
- Deploy satellites at orbital altitudes no higher than ~600 km.
- Darken satellites or use sunshades to shadow their reflective surfaces.
- Control each satellite’s orientation in space to reflect less sunlight to Earth.
- Minimize or eventually be able to eliminate the effect of satellite trails during the processing of astronomical images.
- Make more accurate orbital information available for satellites so that observers can avoid pointing telescopes at them.
Notice what solution they don’t offer? Maybe astronomy should focus on building space-based telescopes, where the view would be clear, unimpeded by both the satellites and (much more importantly) the atmosphere.
In fact, the claim in the first solution above, that launching no satellites is “the only option identified that can achieve zero astronomical impact” is intellectually dishonest. All astronomers have to do is get their observatories into space, something that is very doable and affordable with today’s cheaper launch capabilities and technology. In space the impact of the satellites will once again be zero. And they will have the added benefit of getting outside the atmosphere, which by the way is actually a bigger limitation to observations than any satellite constellation.
It seems to me that this report was written by the faction of astronomers who make their living building big ground-based telescopes. Rather than think of solutions, they want to protect their turf by attacking the achievements of others.
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