Astronomers are growing increasingly concerned about the future of the night sky as new images show shocking trails left by a huge communications satellite against otherwise clear and dark patches of sky.
In September, AST SpaceMobile launched the first Satellite of a new constellation in orbit, paving the way for a system of cell phone towers in space. This prototype, known as BlueWalker 3, carries the largest antenna of any commercial communications satellite to date – and it’s now one of the brightest things in the sky, even eclipsing some of the brightest stars. famous. A committee of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the international governing body of astronomydenounced the launch, warning of the dangers posed by this satellite and its successors.
“BlueWalker 3 is a big change in the question of constellation satellites and should give us all a reason to pause,” said Piero Benvenuti, an astrophysicist at the University of Padua in Italy and representative of the IAU, in the press release.
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Constellations of bright satellites like BlueWalker 3 pose two main threats. Advocates like the IAU are concerned about the loss of “humanity’s ability to experience the natural night sky,” as the officials wrote in the statement.
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And astronomers are particularly concerned about the impact of these streaks in the sky on their research observations. BlueWalker 3 isn’t the first shiny satellite to launch, joining thousands of SpaceX Starlink Satellites which can interfere with visible light observations. But the new beacon also emits strong radio waves, potentially affecting radio astronomy as well.
While these projects may improve cellular and Internet access around the world, the UAI urges everyone – especially the companies that launch such satellites and the regulatory Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – to consider the collateral damage to the night sky. AST SpaceMobile is already in talks with IAU representatives about this, according to the release.