New satellite is one of the brightest objects in the sky, and this is a big problem

(ORDO NEWS) — We are putting more and more satellites into orbit, and along with all the necessary technological and scientific advances, there are potential problems.

Designed to be the start of an orbital communications network that can be accessed from standard smartphones, the recently launched BlueWalker 3 satellite prototype has become one of the brightest objects in the night sky.

For experts and enthusiasts looking into space, this is a big problem. Although astronomers have several telescopes high above the earth, many of our observations of the universe are recorded from the surface of the earth.

According to the Center for the International Astronomical Union, now all but the brightest stars can be eclipsed by satellite glare. to protect dark and calm skies from satellite constellation interference (IAU CPS).

“BlueWalker 3 is a big shift in satellite constellation and should give us all something to think about,” says Piero Benvenuti. , director of IAU CPS.

“That’s exactly what astronomers don’t want,” astronomer Meredith Rawls of the University of Washington in Seattle told Science. “This will show up as a superbright band in the images and potentially oversaturate camera detectors in observatories.”

The BlueWalker 3 is certainly an impressive piece of hardware. Its 64-square-meter (693-square-foot) antenna array is the largest commercial array in low Earth orbit, capable of reflecting much more light than SpaceX‘s Starlink satellites, for example.

The intention of AST’s parent company SpaceMobile is to lift more than 100 satellites into the sky by the end of 2024, many potentially even more than BlueWalker 3. This is a serious concern for scientists.

There’s another problem: BlueWalker 3 is designed to act like a cell tower in space, which means it uses terrestrial radio frequencies that can interfere with radio telescopes, telescopes currently being built away from areas with cell phone coverage.

“Frequencies allocated for mobile phones are already difficult to observe even in radio silence. zones that we have created for our facilities,” says Philip Diamond, CEO of the Square Kilometer Array Observatory. headquartered in the UK.

“New satellites like BlueWalker 3 could make this worse and compromise our ability to do science if not properly mitigated.”

Representatives of the IAU CPS and its partners are also eager to recognize the potential of satellites to improve communications around the world, but they want more discussion about “fair and sustainable use of space.”

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for regulating communications networks both in the US and internationally.

Plans have been announced to open an office dedicated to space, but in the meantime, negotiations between IAU CPS and AST SpaceMobile have already begun.

“We are committed to using the latest technologies and strategies to mitigate possible impacts on astronomy,” said an AST spokesman for SpaceMobile New Scientist.

“We are actively working with industry experts on the latest innovations, including next-generation anti-reflective materials.”

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